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S121: Background Information/Reference Sources

Basic research information for students enrolled in S121.

Background Information

Background information is a great way to start your research.

Background or reference sources can give you an overview of a topic, or help you to find definitions, or help you to clarify a way to narrow a topic. 

Print reference sources are found in the Hammes information Commons in the Schurz Library. Electronic reference sources are available from the Schurz Library Reference & Research page. 

We encourage you to ask a reference librarian if you have questions.

Schurz Library

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Contact a reference librarian at the Hammes Information Commons service desk:

Phone: 574.520.4441

Online Chat / Networks:
Text us by sending a message to 246246. Start your message with...
send iusblibrarian your message

Print reference sources

The Hammes Information Commons in the Schurz Library has thousands of reference books for you to peruse.

There are several ways to look for a reference book in the Schurz Library Hammes Information Commons. You can browse through the shelves, do a search on IUCAT, or better yet, ask the librarian for assistance in finding a relevant source for your topic.

Here are the hours that a reference librarian is available:

Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday 12 noon-5 p.m.
Sunday, 12 noon to 9 p.m.

The box on the left has more information about contacting a reference librarian.

Subscription electronic reference sources

The Schurz Library has purchased three online reference source collections: Credo Reference, the Gale Virtual Reference Library, and Oxford Reference Premium. If you are working off-campus, access to these services will require login with your IU username and passphrase.

Credo Reference is a set of online reference sources from over 50 publishers. There are over 200 titles included in this collection. There are both simple and advanced search (highly recommended) modes, and you can even listen to word pronunciations in this database!

Gale Virtual Reference Library also includes over 200 reference works, but they are all from the same publisher - Gale, which is a well-respected publishing company. We have some of the same sources in print in the Hammes Information Commons.

Oxford Reference Premium includes dictionary, language reference, and subject reference works published by Oxford University Press, a trusted reference publisher. As with Gale, we have many Oxford reference sources in print in the Hammes Information Commons.

While not every reference source is available in these collections, they serve as an excellent starting point to access reliable reference materials online. They are available from the links above or on the Schurz Library Reference & Research page "Find Electronic Reference Sources."

CQ Researcher

The CQ Researcher is available in print in the Hammes Information Commons (Ref. H35 .E353) and online.


This source is an excellent background source for your research project and is especially helpful if you are having trouble deciding on a topic. In approximately 20-25 pages, it explores a subject that may have been in the news recently, or covers some controversial territory. Each issue includes background information, a pro and a con viewpoint, graphs and charts (think visual aid for your presentation!), and a listing of sources for further research.