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DIY How To

Learning about a Topic

Background research provides context for your topic:

Background Research: Where to Start
Type of Source Definition Examples
Tertiary Source*
  • type of Secondary Source
  • offers a summary or review of a subject

*often called reference source

  • Dictionary
  • Encyclopedia
  • Almanacs

The best place to start is with tertiary sources (encyclopedia articles are your best bet)

  1. Get an overview of the broader topic
  2. Identify sub-topics for narrowing a topic
  3. Highlight key terms (people, places, events, dates) - these can be used for searches
  4. References and citations that follow offer an early idea of source availability for a topic

The Librarians recommend these databases to start your research

  • Other places to start:

    • Ask a Librarian for research help;
    • Resource Guides for specific classes list “Best Bet” reference and subject encyclopedias for that class or project.