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Research : A How to Guide for Students: Step 3. Gather background information

Background Info

Books and articles are great. But, they are not always the best place to start! You can save a lot of time by starting with reference type resources —like encyclopedia articles.

Why we ♥ academic encyclopedia articles

  • They present concise summaries (aka, SHORT - not a lot to read)
  • Academic encyclopedia articles are written by scholars who are experts in their fields, scholars whose work you may want to use
  • These articles often include short bibliographies that identify the most important works on a topic (again, you may want to cite these in your work)
  • Scholarly encyclopedia articles are a quick way to get up to speed on subject-specific jargon, important people and places, critical events, etc.

 How to find great subject-specific encyclopedias

  • Search the FAMU library catalog using the Advanced Search feature. Enter your search terms and using the LOCATION field, limit results to 'Coleman, Reference'
  • Search our online encyclopedias - see the box below.
  • Ask a librarian or your professor what the most important reference work is for this class!

Timesaver!   Remember, even if you can't use an encyclopedia article as a source for your final project, encyclopedias can give you a jump start, lead you to quality sources you CAN cite, and save a lot of time!