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UO REU site guide: Increasing American Indian/Alaska Natives perspectives in field and experimental linguistics

Background Info/Reference Databases - General Subjects

Before you Start...

Before you start any research on your topic, you must develop some background knowledge including facts, dates, and names of important people, places, or theories. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language (look for keywords!) when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

General Reference Databases (library subscription resources)

Open Web (Free) Resources

Oxford Bibliographies - Linguistics TRIAL DATABASE

The Oxford Bibliographies is a reference resource on various subjects. UO Libraries subscribes to the Bibliography on Linguistics among several others.

What can I find in an Oxford Bibliography?

Bibliographies are lists of citations to key, foundational, important and noteworthy works about certain subjects and subtopics within that area of study. In the Linguistics bibliography, you will find an overview of the field of study with entries on various areas of study.

For example:

Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mayan Languages
Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Eskimo-Aleut

Why should I use a bibliography?

Using a bibliography can help jumpstart your research by pointing you toward important scholars and articles about your topic! It can save you time in learning what research has already been done in the area you are working on.

How can I access the Oxford Bibliography on Linguistics?

You will need to be on campus or using a VPN to connect to the campus network. You can access the Oxford Bibliographies through this link or also through the Databases A-Z List on our home page:

Using Wikipedia for Research (Infographic)

In addition to being a great place to start exploring an unfamiliar topic, Wikipedia is considered a tertiary source. Writers of tertiary sources synthesize information from secondary sources and strive to report them in a tone that is as unbiased and neutral as possible. 

Some tertiary sources are cited in academic research and others are not. This practice varies by discipline so contact your instructor or a librarian with questions!

Thanks to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of this graphic under a Creative Commons license.

Linguistics reference works: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, & Handbooks

These Handbooks, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries can:

  • help you identify a topic for your research
  • provide useful definitions
  • provide an overview of a specific issue
  • identify key research in the field
  • suggest other materials which might be useful for your research

(Unless noted:  print books (REF KNIGHT) are located in the Research/Reference section of Knight Library)


Information about Languages

  • Atlas of languages Knight Library Map Atlas   P 107 .A87 2003
  • Atlas of the world's languages    Knight Library Map Atlas   G 1046.E3 A8 2007 OVERSIZE X material
  • Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (UNESCO) and  P 40.5 .L33 A841 Knight Reference
  • Compendium of the world's languages  P 371 .C36 2000 Knight Reference  
  • Ethnologue: Languages of the world  We have the books in Knight Library in the Reference Section (First Floor) P 371 .E83 1996 Knight Reference There is an online version but we do not have access to much of the information:
  •  provides a comprehensive catalogue of the world's languages, language families and dialects.
  • Dictionary of languages: The definitive reference to more than 400 languages P 29 .D35 Knight Reference
  • Wikipedia - entries for individual languages a can be very useful, good for basic information.  Always good to double check sources.
  • World atlas of language structures (WALS)  (also available G1046.E3 W6 Knight Reference