Initial use of search engines designed to access a large volume of materials can be helpful in scanning the literature on a particular topic and obtaining an initial understanding of how scholars, journalists, and others have studied your topic of interest.
The search box on the Libraries' main page [https://libraries.usc.edu/]. This option on the USC Libraries main web page provides a single search box with comprehensive access to print and online books, selected digital resources, and full-text journal, magazine, and newspaper articles owned by the USC Libraries or accessible online through subscriptions. The USC Libraries' search engine only accesses materials owned by the library. Information about using the Libraries' search engine can be found here.
There is a link to Google Scholar on the Libraries' main page. It provides access to mostly scholarly [i.e., peer-reviewed, academic] resources, including scholarly titles from Google Book Search. Google Scholar covers a much broader array of resources than the USC Libraries search engine, but not everything you find may be accessible. Features include a "Cited by" linkthat allows you to track where a particular source has been subsequently cited after publication and an automatic citation generator. Information about using Google Scholar can be found here.
USC Libraries Catalog-- from the Research tab drop-down menu on the Libraries' main page, the catalog searches all print and electronic books, research reports, government documents, and other materials owned by the USC Libraries, exclusive of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles.
Databases for Basic Background Information
The full-text and keyword searchable databases listed below enable you to search the contents of dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias, and other reference books in a variety of subject areas or to find scholarly summaries of topics. These databases can be a good place to locate definitive, unbiased explanations of key concepts, theories, and topics as well as biographic profiles and descriptions of historic events. Most of these databases are multidisciplinary and some of their content overlaps, but search more than one database as needed to gain a thorough description of your topic.
CQ Researcher -- provides access to original, comprehensive, single-themed analytical reports on topics in the news. The reports offer unbiased coverage of health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, the economy, and many other subject areas. Good place to get background information on a social policy topic.
Credo Reference -- comprehensive collection of highly-specialized reference works, primarily dictionaries and encyclopedias, across all subject areas. Good place to go for succinct definitions, explanations, and analysis of concepts, theories, or topics.
Gale Virtual Reference Library -- includes several hundred subject encyclopedias and other specialized reference works across all subject areas, but with particular strengths in the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities. Another good source for authoritative background information.
Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.