The PCC Library subscribes to databases in order to provide free access to published information NOT freely available on the Web, to you our students. Each database is a unique compilation of material. Some provide access to scholarly peer-reviewed journals. Other databases focus on specific disciplines, such as the Arts or Science. Others include encyclopedic articles, which can be a good way to get an overview or basic understanding of your topic.
As you explore the databases and refine your search strategies, it can help to keep a journal of where and how you search.
These resources can help you to refine your topic or familiarize yourself with an issue. They make a great starting point when you have a general idea of a research topic, but you still need to narrow it down.
Reference resources help you choose, explore and develop your topic! Reference sources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries contain overviews and background information. They sometimes contain statistics, definitions and lists of resources for further study. When you have a better understanding of your topic, it will be easier to come up with the search terms you'll use to find the books and articles you need.
Wikipedia is a reference source because it is an encyclopedia. You can use it to discover ideas and links to additional resources -- but never cite it as a source in your papers! This rule exists because Wikipedia entries can be edited at any time, by anyone, and so its accuracy can never be relied upon at any given moment.