Before you find in-depth sources like journal articles or studies, learn about the big picture of your topic and gain some historical or global perspective about it. That way, you can contextualize the sources you find later. Think of this step as “pre-search” or the searching you do to inform how you research a topic. The library’s Reference and Background Databases are excellent places to locate sources that will provide background information. Reference books, like encyclopedias, can help you find:
- an overview of your topic
- commonly used words or phrases that are used to describe your topic
- names, dates, and facts about the topic
- the history of your topic
What about Wikipedia?
For some topics, you can use Wikipedia to gather background information and ideas about potential sources. Learn more about Working with Wikipedia so you know how to use it for college-level work. While you can’t cite it as a source, it may help you learn about the topic you are researching, establish search words and identify some leads for sources to track down.