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Library DIY

Self-help Guide for Navigating the Library

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.]:

  • Points of View Reference Center - 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.