Subject encyclopedias are a good starting point for researching a topic. The library provides access to hundreds of print and online encyclopedias. The articles in a subject encyclopedia are usually written by a scholar or expert in the field. Using subject encyclopedias at the beginning of your research can help you to define key terms to use in searching the library catalog and databases. Often these resources will include a list of references (books or journal articles) that you can use to identify other sources on your topic.
Use the background sources here, as well as other sources you might encounter, to gather information about your topic and consider what you still need to know before you start researching. You can use this information in searching for primary sources.
- Dates - Places - Names of persons involved - Names of organizations, government agencies, etc. - Names of particular laws or events
Background sources can also help you understand the larger historical context, so that you can determine what primary sources might be most useful or how a particular primary source fits into what was happening at that time.