Skip to main content Vassar College Libraries

Vassar College Libraries

Vassar College

The Persistence of Poverty in the US

Background Context

Use a reference source (such as an encyclopedia) to gather background information about your topic. It's best to rely on a published source because you can have more trust in the accuracy of information there than in Wikipedia. If you do use Wikipedia, consult the References at the bottom of the page. These Reference often cite published works you can also consult.

To find "reference" sources you can search the library catalog and limit to "Reference" as I do here:

Search poverty limited to Reference

These ebooks may be helpful.

Poverty and the government in America: a historical encyclopedia / [edited by] Jyotsna Sreenivasan

Rich and poor in America: a reference handbook / Geoffrey Gilbert

Find Data

Your assignment asks you to find "the annual cost of the progarm and the number (and type) of people affected and how these have changed over time (if they have)"

Keep an eye out for citations in other sources that direct you to a source for this data.

Searching a program name is often effective for finding this information. For example instead of Food Stamps, search SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Locate the government site about the program and look for data, budgets, research, assessment reports etc. linked there. For example, SNAP is administered by the USDA

Find Books and Articles

1. Search the library catalog for books on your topic. You might want to limit your search to "exclude government documents"

search food stamps limit exclude government documents

Take note of terminology used in Subject Headings and use it to inform your search terms and to further explore the catalog.

2. When you locate books in the stacks, browse the entire area. You always find something else! Look at tables of content and indices to assess if books will be helfpul to you.

3. Use citations to find more sources.

4. Search Discover to find more books, and articles. Use the facets on the left hand side to refine your search results. You can limit to scholarly articles there. You can even look up an article title in Discover.  For example  Also try searching some of the more specific terminology and concepts you are noting. Remember articles are written about very specific questions.

5. Research is an iterative process. As you refine your topic and articulate more specific research questions, you need to find additional sources. Return to reference books to look up new terminology. Do more searches in the library catalog and Discover.

6. Make a list of what information you still want to find and what sources you think would be likely to have it.

Vassar Home | Digital Media Zone | Learning, Teaching & Research Center
Vassar College Libraries, Box 20, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY, 12604-0020
845.437.5760 |