Using specialized encyclopedias to become familiar with your topic is the most efficient way to get started on your research. These encyclopedias, written by knowledgeable scholars, will summarize your topic, provide you with social and historical context, familiarize you with specialized terminology, and often provide lists of additional resources on your topic. They are providing you in condensed form information from multiple books and articles. Think of them as CliffsNotes ... that you are allowed to use.
The encyclopedias listed below may be useful for many of the topics suggested by your instructor, but there are many, many more. The easiest way to locate them in the Library is to do an Oskicat search like this:
1. Use the keyword search so that it looks for the words everywhere in the record.
2. The asterisk is a truncation symbol, which will retrieve variations of the word: ethic, ethics, ethical, etc.
3. The Doe Reference collection includes many encyclopedias and limiting your search to this collection will retrieve a manageable number of records. If you retrieve nothing, change the search parameter to All Collections, or limit it to a subject specialty library.
Try different terminology and be persistent. If you are not finding a relevant resource, be sure to ask for help.
In the article databases and library catalogs, your search strategy should include combining keywords that represent the main concepts of your topic. Take a couple minutes to think about your topic and keywords to use in your searches.
Suppose you're starting with the thesis: “Global warming is having adverse impacts on agriculture in America.” What keywords might be used to search for relevant sources?
Break your question down into its major concept terms:
global warming | impacts | agriculture | America
Think of synonyms and variations of your keywords to use when searching. You should go through this quick exercise because you may find out that while you use the word “global warming,” the database you’re searching uses “climate change.” Using synonyms guarantees that you’re casting a wider net.
Construct a search using your keywords, combining them with AND and OR
- AND narrows your search by looking for articles with all of the words
- OR broadens your search by looking for articles with any of the words