ENGL 112 Introduction to Fiction

Finding Background Info

Searching for Reference Articles

Use the databases linked in this box to find articles that contain background info on your topic.

  • Click on the databases below 


  • Click on the tabs in this box for search tips and suggestions on how to best search these databases

Using World History in Context

A middle-class family’s kitchen in New York City during the 1890sThe library's World History in Context database is a great place to find historical information including timelines, overviews, and images. You can search by country name, event, person, or other keywords of significance from your story.

Image (cited below) of a middle-class family kitchen in New York City during the 1890s. (Click on image to enlarge)

Image source: "A middle-class family’s kitchen in New York City during the 1890s." American Eras, vol. 8: Development of the Industrial United States, 1878-1899, Gale, 1997. Gale In Context: World History, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC2536688211/WHIC?u=aubu98092&sid=WHIC&xid=be0ee695. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Using Gale Virtual Reference (aka Gale Ebooks)

Gale Virtual Reference Library, or Gale Ebooks, is a good database to start your research. This database houses subject-specific encyclopedia articles on a wide range of topics. Search for a specific time period, author, story, or even theme. 

Search Tips

While you can use the advanced search options in this database, you can often start by using whatever keywords you have in mind. Search by keyword, by name of a person/author, event, or another topic.

As shown in the image below, you can limit the results by Document Type, using the tools to the left of the titles. 

  • Notice that while each of these results has the same title, they each come from a different subject-specific encyclopedia. This means each article may discuss the topic in a slightly different way, based on the larger topic of the book it comes from. 

(click on image to enlarge)

search results for an author, highlighting how to limit by document type using the tools on the right

Searching a Specific Time Period 

This database is a great one to search for specific time frames too - events as well as times in US and world history.

The following sources are in-print inside the library, as well as searchable inside Gale Ebooks


zeit·geist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

What does it mean to understand a story's zeitgeist?

Consider answering one or many of the following questions:

  1. Where is the story set, and how/why is this significant?
  2. What is culturally or historically significant about the place this story is set?
  3. Does the book discuss events and/or people of historical significance?
  4. How or why is this particular author's voice relevant to the context of the story?