Need a little background information to better understand your topic? Try looking at encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference material to get a general overview and clear definitions on your topic.
Published reference material is often written and evaluated by subject experts, a characteristic that differentiates them from much of Wikipedia.
General and subject encyclopedias give an overview of a broad range of topics.
Encyclopedia entries can help you define the scope of research on a given topic and give you ideas for a thesis statement or research question.
Most reference material (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.) generally falls into two categories: general material and subject-specific material.
Online reference material comes in two basic forms, ebooks and databases.
You may need to gather background information before you really start developing the key concepts and keywords for you topic (Step 1). Feel free to work on both steps at the same time.
Don't forget to mine the "References" or "Further Reading" section of encyclopedia entries to discover quality books, articles, and web resources related to your topic.
For most research papers and some research assignments, you do not cite an encyclopedia or dictionary. You use it only to inform yourself about a topic. Many instructors do not consider an encyclopedia or dictionary to be the best source of evidence on the complexities of a topic.
Should you use Wikipedia when you research?