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Research Help:  Find Background Information


Choose topic | Find background info | Research strategy | Find books | Find articles | Find reference sources
Find web sites | Obtain materials not at WUStL | Evaluate sources | Cite sources


Once you have decided on a topic, it is a good idea to find and read background information. The Washington University Libraries own many general and specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries that are good sources for background information. By consulting these sources, you can find quick summaries of basic ideas, discover the names of important people, and familiarize yourself with the vocabulary of a given field.

To begin some general background reading, you may want to consult Britannica Online. Many other choices are available in print in the Olin Library Reference Department and in the reference areas of the other departmental and school libraries.

In addition to reading articles in a general encyclopedia, you should consider looking for background information in specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias. These can be found in the Libraries' catalog, by performing a subject search, using your subject followed by the word "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries." For example, to find a psychology encyclopedia you could perform the following search in the catalog:

library catalog subject search box


Of course, you can also consult with a librarian to help you find appropriate sources for background information.

Note: The background information you find will lead you to other sources of information. Encyclopedia articles often include carefully selected bibliographies or lists of references to other works. These references and bibliographies are good starting points for further research.


Choose topic | Find background info | Research strategy | Find books | Find articles |
Find reference sources
| Obtain materials not at WUStL | Evaluate sources | Cite sources