The Gale Virtual Reference Library database (GVRL) is a huge set of specialized encyclopedias which can all be searched at once. Search your item (or the class of items to which it belongs) as a Document Title and you'll find encyclopedia entries in works like:
To access GVRL, go to library.missouri.edu and find the section called LOOKING FOR? toward the bottom right of the page. Click on "A database," which is the first item in that section. Type GVRL in the search blank. Click the link into the database. When searching, change the search from a keyword to a document title search.
The search on the library home page, library.missouri.edu, will look for articles, books and even encyclopedia entries on a subject. You can type things like:
history of bicycles
"energy drinks" social (Put phrases in "quotation marks" to make sure the words appear next to one another.)
You can then narrow results to just books, or just peer-reviewed articles.
Use the Books & Media tab in the search box on the library page, library.missouri.edu.
Start with a fairly simple search, such as sunglasses and histor*
If you don't find anything worthwhile in the initial search, click the Modify Search button. You can start to add synonyms, separated with "OR," to expand your search results, and you can manipulate the search fields the search terms must be found in. Also, if your item has had no books written about it, specifically, you may need to go with a larger class of items. For example, if you're writing about Sperrys or boat shoes, and you don't find anything under those terms, try this advanced search:
footwear or shoes in SUBJECT
men* or masculin* in ANY FIELD
Finally, if you get only a few books in your search results, you can click the MOBIUS button to find more books in other libraries. If you want one sent here, use the Request link.