Academic reference sources (dictionaries & encyclopaedias) are important places to start your research, especially if you are new to a topic. They summarise existing research, and are especially useful in helping define terminology and concepts, so help you to get a basic understanding of the subject or idea. Articles in encyclopaedias can also point you towards some of the key literature on a topic.
Online Reference Resources
The Library has online access to The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, a major resource, regularly updated with new content, and an excellent source of information for starting research on almost anything in Sociology:
The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology (2007- continually updated)
Another very useful resource is Oxford Bibliographies Online, the Library subscribes to the Sociology & Criminology modules. They comprise short articles on a topic, with lists of key readings (the bibliography) included, making them very helpful for research on many topics.
A really useful resource for concepts in social theory is:
Less comprehensive, but still useful, online reference sources include:
SAGE Dictionary of Sociology (2006)
For the social sciences more broadly, consult this excellent resource:
International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 2nd ed. (Elsevier: 2015)
These encyclopedias may also be helpful:
Encyclopedia of Global Justice / edited by Deen Chatterjee (Springer: 2011)
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - highly regarded open access work, useful for social theory & regularly updated
Print Reference Resources
For Sociology, general dictionaries & enncyclopaedias are shelved at HM 17 on floor 4. They include The Blackwell encyclopedia of sociology (2007), but note that the online version referred to above is more comprehensive as it includes new & revised articles published on a continuing basis.
After looking at reference material you might want to learn about a topic in a bit more depth, and books are a good starting point, as they are usually more suitable than journal articles for establishing an understanding of a topic.
Academic books come in various flavours and include:
1. Introductory textbooks
These are often referred to on your reading lists and you can find a great selection in the Student Collection on Floor 1, as well as online
2. Short books
These have become popular in recent years, as they are cheaper & faster to publish, often deal with contemporary topics that are appealing to students, and are quicker to read! The Library has purchased all of the Oxford Very Short Introductions series, which cover all subject areas, but there are many other examples available in print or online.
These can be highly useful, as they summarise research across a broad subject area and its subfields. A very useful resource are the Oxford Handbooks in Sociology (also Criminology & Criminal Justice) that the Library has purchased access to. You can cross-search them for the topic you are interested in. Many others are available from publishers including Routledge, SAGE, Wiley, Springer Palgrave, etc.
4. Monographs and Edited Collections
Monographs are just scholarly books written by an academics, and are useful if you need to pursue a topic in more depth. Good examples of these can be found through the library search & browsing the shelves, and the library subscribes to the Oxford Scholarship Online collection of ebooks in Sociology & other subjects.
Edited collections have chapters written by different authors that relate to the title or theme of the book as a whole, and you might find that selected chapters from edited books are relevant to your topic.
The library search does include the contents (i.e. chapter details) of some books, but not all. Google Books or Amazon Book Search can be helpful in finding out the contents details of specific books. Browsing the library shelves is a really good way of doing this too, as books on similar topics are shelved together.