Sometimes, when starting a paper or speech or debate on a hot-button social topic, students are wise to start with an encyclopedia entry that provides an overview of the subject they are interested in exploring. Then, afterwards, they move on to journal literature and other research databases and statistics.
For the types of "social problems" students often choose (from their own interests or from readings in texts like the Bedford Reader), one 8 volume encyclopedia--that the library owns in paper form--called Social Issues in America has gotten a lot of use for browsing and basic research in the last few years. This is still a good first step for many students. But since this multi-volume set was published in 2006, it is useful to update it with something newer. This we have just done with a 4 volume 2011 resource available on our handy Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) interface.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, was just published by ABC-CLIO, and it covers many of the same subject areas, from abortion to zombie computers (mentioned in the Cybercrime entry), that the earlier Sharpe Reference set discussed.
The publisher indicates that the set contains "approximately 225 in-depth entries lay out the controversies debated in the media, on campuses, in government, in boardrooms, and in homes and neighborhoods across the United States." They also indicate that "the work of almost 200 expert contributors, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues comprises four volumes, each devoted to a particular subject area. Volume one covers business and the economy; volume two, criminal justice; volume three, family and society; and volume four, the environment, science, and technology."
GVRL access is easy. Although you can access this (and the rest of GVRL content) from the database as a whole, if you are interested just in this new encyclopedia, it's probably easiest to simply link directly to it from our catalog record.
When you enter the landing page for this set, you can either do a keyword search, just in this publication, from the yellow search box to the left. Or, you can browse the table of contents or index (with eLinks), as well. See screenshoot below.
Once you search or select an entry, you can read it in HTML, often with links to supplementary items in the bibliography at the end of the entry. Or, you can view the entry in PDF, which looks exactly like the original volume, and prints in a more handsome form. Other tools (like getting an MLA or APA citation!) are available to the right of each HTML entry.
The great thing about GVRL is that, unlike many ebook platforms, it allows unlimited access to all content. So, if an instructor assigns an article in this or any other GVRL resource, students don't have to worry about being locked out while another student is using the material.
I should warn you that, within the month, GVRL is planning to roll out a new (and supposedly improved) platform. So some of what is described in this blog entry might change. But the over-all functionality should remain, and be even better. (We hope!)
Explore this and other new ebooks for 24/7 access to good-quality content.