Start out looking for basic background information on your topic. Use general reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, or almanacs to get a general introduction to your topic and the key terms used to describe the topic.
Key terms might include synonyms for the topic, or broader terms that would include the topic or appropriate subtopics. Here's a simple example: topic = ice cream; look for information under headings such as frozen desserts, dairy products, sherbet, etc. Remember that online card catalogs and article databases search by subject term or keyword. Check out the Subject/Keyword Tutorial.
The table below can help you use different online reference resources to find relevant background information. The Online Reference Resources page has a wide variety of resources to help you.
|Types of Information||Use these Reference Resources|
|Definitions||Dictionaries & Glossaries|
|Short Essays||Encyclopedias & Handbooks, Article Databases, Open Access Journal Collections|
|Information on Individuals||Biographical Dictionaries|
|Meanings of acronyms (UNESCO, DOE, etc.)||Acronyms & Abbreviations|
|News & Current Events||Newspapers, News magazines, and News media sites|
|Maps||Maps & Atlases|
|People, Companies, Organizations or Governments||Directories, Governments|
|Book Reviews||Book Review sources|
|Research Quality Web Sites||Other reference collections|