Reference sources are materials that provide a general overview of a topic. This overview can help you quickly understand the major people, events, or periods of time associated with your topic. The overview can also help you develop a list of possible keywords, which are covered in more depth on the Search Strategies tab. Beyond the overview, many reference sources also include a Works Cited/Bibliography that you can use to explore your topic in more depth.
In addition to the resources listed below, encyclopedias are also good reference sources.
Another good way to start your research is using a concept mapping tool which will help you visualize subtopics and related topics and identify possible search terms. Several of our library databases offer concept mapping tools. Once you've narrowed your topics within each database you should be able to click in to specific articles.
When you search a topic in our Discovery search tool, there is an option to open a Concept Map feature. See the image below for where you can locate the button that will take you to the concept map too.
Gale databases have the Topic Finder feature. Here's an example for a Topic Finder search I did for Burma in our reference database, Gale Ebooks. Each tile allows you to click on it and find more subtopics.
Credo database has a concept map tool that can be accessed by searching your topic. Here is an example of a search for William Wallace. Clicking on each topic will take you to a list of articles that are relevant.
Still not sure where to start? Just ask! Librarians can be a great resource for helping you define your topic and come up with keywords to search. Visit the Just Ask section of the library website, use the chat widget, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more assistance.