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UNST 231A Gender & Sexualities - McDaneld: Background Information

Getting Background and Overview

At some point in your research process (often at an early point), it's useful to search for information in ways that are LESS specific than your research question. Overview and background sources, such as encyclopedias and some books, can give you a broader sense of the history or scale of your topic. They can give you a sense of concepts that are related to your topic and help you identify the keywords (or authors or theorists) that are important for your question.

Subject Encyclopedias

When searching in encyclopedias, use fewer keywords. For example, instead of all the elements of a research question on how individuals and their families accept someone who is self-identifying as intersex, use 'intersex' as your search term in the appropriate subject encyclopedia.

Search for Subject Encyclopedias (PSU Only)

Online Subject Encyclopedia Collections

Here are three big collections of online subject encyclopedias.

Oxford Bibliographies Online

Each subject module within the Oxford Bibliographies Online provides and overview of a broad subject area broken down by the relevant topical divisions of that subject. Each topical section provides annotated entries for the important publications (book and journal article) on that topic.  OBOs can be an excellent way to find the best scholarship on a topic.


PSU Library Catalog

You may not be able to find an encyclopedia article that meets your needs.  Try searching for a book using your keywords.  This search widget looks for books, dvds, etc. held by Portland State University Library and the libraries in the Orbis Cascade Alliance collections.