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While the library building is closed until further notice, the Library's online services and resources continue to be available to Northwestern students, faculty, and staff.

Please see this Guide to Modified Services for more information.

Library DIY

I want to learn more about a possible topic.

Before beginning more in-depth research, it's often helpful to get an overview of your topic through background research. This can help you develop a more effective research question and brainstorm better search terms.

  • Your instructor understands your assignment and can provide advice about the topic and how to frame it. 
  • Ask a Librarian! We're available in person, via virtual chat, email, and phone. 
  • Subject encyclopedias and other reference resources can help you develop your topic and identify key search terms. They contain short topic overviews and scholarly references.  
  • If there are journals related to the general area you are studying, look through recent tables of contents for ideas and background information on possible topics.
  • Get more ideas for reference books for background research by checking out the Berntsen Library's Subject Guides or Course Guides

 Here are a few useful databases for exploring potential topics [click on the "reference resources" link above to get to these 3 collections and more.]:

  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context - Controversial contemporary topic summaries and overviews of current issues. 
  • Oxford Reference Online - Full text subject encyclopedias, reference works, dictionaries, and handbooks in all disciplines. 
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library - Full text encyclopedias and reference books in all disciplines.