Where to Start Looking for Background Information

You can find background information and explore your topic in the types of sources described below. You can also talk to your instructor or other "experts" on or off campus for suggestions. Be sure to ask the Reference Librarians in the library (at the Reference Desk) if you want help finding these types of materials.

  • Almanacs & Fact Books
  • General Dictionaries
  • General Encyclopedias
    • Almanacs, factbooks, and general dictionaries or encyclopedias are often at the beginning of the Reference Book Collection. General resources such as these will be found in the section of the Reference Books whose call numbers begin with the letter "A." A guide to electronic reference sources of this type is included under "Online Reference Sources" on the Waubonsee Libraries Home Page.
  • Specialized Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
    • To find these, you need to find the section of the Reference Book Collection dedicated to the subject area of interest. The system of call numbers used in the library (the Library of Congress system) uses letters to group subjects together.
  • Books and Journals/Magazines 
    • You can find books or journal/magazine issues by:
      • Browsing in the book stacks using the same broad call number areas as for specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias.
      • Using the library's catalog, you can search more systematically and will probably save time. We'll look at this in more detail in "Getting More Information About Your Topic from Books."
      • The best way to find magazine or journal articles relevant to your topic is to use an article database You'll be introduced to using a general article database in "Getting More Information from Magazines and Journals."
  • Surfing on the Web
    • You can also explore your topic by searching for it on the Web. Even a quick search may show you what issues are currently "hot." You will, however, want to be careful to evaluate what you're finding. We'll look more closely at using the Web to find useful information in "Getting More Information from the Web."