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When you begin a research project, it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect on your prior knowledge of the topic area. How much do you already know about this topic? How confident are you in moving forward with this topic?
In most cases, you will need to do a bit of research to get some general information on your topic. To truly learn a new concept or skill, you need to create a solid base or foundation.
Gathering background information on your topic is a great way to start any research assignment. By looking through encyclopedias, handbooks, and other reference materials, you can usually find the following information very quickly:
Brief overview of your topic
Key concepts, people, dates, and events
Lists of sources for further reading and bibliographies that may lead you to additional sources
A great way to create this base is by conducting research in encyclopedias or other reference sources, including the reference databases listed below.
Provides full text online access to the complete 250-plus volumes of Cambridge Histories reference series. Provides political, economic and social history, philosophy and literature of selected countries and subjects.
A collection of full text electronic reference books covering many subject areas. Can be searched by keyword, source, subject, image caption, full text, and audience. Individual books can be combined for cross-title searching.
Contains about 2000 viewpoint articles, 1000 topic overviews, 700 court case overviews, and 30 full text periodicals and newspapers. The Research Guide provides tips on analyzing issues with opposing viewpoints, distinguishing fact from opinion, evaluating information sources, and recognizing deceptive arguments.
Contains full-text essays representing multiple sides of about 250 topics; in addition, the database includes political magazines, radio and television news transcripts, primary source documents, and reference books. Designed to provide a series of controversial essays that present multiple sides of a current issue. Essays provide questions and materials for further thought and study and are accompanied by thousands of supporting articles from the world's top political and societal publications.