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Mathematics: Background Sources

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Background Sources

Online resources like Google and Wikipedia can be helpful with your background research and in identifying keywords that you will need to search the databases.

Here are some additional resources:


Encyclopedias, Dictionaries




Reference Materials


Patent Search

Library Reference Sources in Mathematics

CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics   (Sci Ref   QA5.W45 1999)

            Very practical encyclopedia of mathematical applications.  Explains mathematical operations, equations, formula, etc. giving examples of how they are applied.

CRC Standard Mathematical Tables   (Sci Ref  QA47.M315)

            Standard handbook of mathematical tables, formula, and functions.  The current edition is at the Science Reference Desk.

Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mathematics  (Sci Ref   QA5.I8313 1987)

            Excellent short encyclopedia with long topical articles and an extensive index to narrower subjects with in the articles.   Includes bibliographic references at the ends of the articles.

Encyclopaedia of Mathematics    (Sci Ref  QA5.M3713 1988)

            Very comprehensive encyclopedia which is a translation of a Russian encyclopedia.  Advanced theoretical approach.

An Atlas of Functions   (Sci Ref  QA331.S685)

            Handbook of algorithms for computing tables of specific values of standard functions.

Handbook of Applicable Mathematics    (Sci Ref   QA36.H36)

            Survey of key mathematical ideas in various general fields within mathematics especially applicable to other academic areas but also written to be understood by most adults.

Companion Encyclopedia of the History and Philosophy of the Mathematical Sciences    (Sci Ref   QA21.E57 1993)

            General survey of the history of major developments in mathematics with extensive bibliographical references.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary resources: Found in the "Find Articles / Use Databases" tab, these are sources from which original research is presented. Here, data is taken, analyzed, and presented for the first time. They represent original thinking and are considered the "gold standard" for reference IF they are peer-reviewed. Remember, not all primary sources are peer-reviewed. You should confirm the source is peer-reviewed before using it as a reference. They are usually found as journal articles or conference proceedings. 

Secondary resources: Found in the "Find Articles / Use Databases" tab, these are articles which compare, contrast, summarize or discuss information presented in primary literature.  These are often called "review articles" or "reviews." You can tell a secondary source by its lack of original data presented. These are good sources for finding primary sources through their references. Not all secondary sources are peer-reviewed, and you should confirm the source is peer-reviewed before using it as a reference. If peer-reviewed, it is reasonable to use as a reference.

Tertiary resources: Found here in the "Background Sources" tab, these are books, encyclopedias, almanacs, reference books, etc. Basically any source that has condensed information in a way that allows the reader to "get up to speed" quickly on a subject. Usually the best, first place to start your research. References found within the source can lead to primary research, notable authors, and terminology that will assist you in the rest of your research. Tertiary sources themselves are not usually used as a reference, since the researcher should find the original source from which the tertiary version is based.

Peer review: The process by which articles are submitted to experts in the scientific discipline for comments and criticism before publication in a scholarly journal or presented in a peer-reviewed conference. Peer-reviewed journals are also called "refereed." Using the "UlrichsWeb" resource link in the "Citation Resources" tab is an effective way to determine if the source, and its contents, are peer reviewed.