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Economics: Overviews

Library Databases

Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a useful site for finding background information. Please remember, though, that it (along with other broad encyclopedias like World Book or Britannica) is not cited as a scholarly source.

What does that mean?

  1. Wikipedia can be considered a tertiary source, which is a consolidation of primary and secondary sources. When you are conducting scholarly research, we expect you to be doing that consolidation!
  2. Wikipedia is edited and added to by many different contributors. This can lead to very lengthy articles that include minutia about your topic that may not be relevant to your research. Because there are so many editors, the articles are not cohesive, making them more difficult to read.
  3. Sometimes information on Wikipedia can be unreliable, depending on the topic.

If you really love Wikipedia...

I advise students to use Wikipedia to find basic information like names or dates. Later, after you've collected background information from better sources like journal articles from JStor or Proquest, you may chose to revisit Wikipedia to find more sources in the references section of the page. By this time you will have developed your own expertise on the topic and will be better equipped to sift through Wikipedia's information.

Why use overviews?

Topic overviews are crucial when you are starting your research. A good overview should spark curiosity and lead you to find a person, idea, or question that may end up becoming your research topic. The idea here is to start by reading a broad topic overview (i.e. cold war, the environment, women's rights).