Before you dive into specialist literature it always helps to get some basic information first and contextualize your topic. You can use reference works for that:
Although there are thousands of these type of reference works there is no guarantee that they will be available for each and every topic. Also the delineations between the different types mentioned above may be quite vague.
Finding these reference works is not that hard. Using the advanced search in WorldCat. Search the title field with handbook OR encyclop*. On a second line of the same search again select the title field and type in a search term describing your subject (e.g. energy, transport*, horse*, renaissance, copyright, drug abuse or gravitational waves) .Try various (broader and narrower) terms that describe your topic. An increasing share of the search results will be available as e-books.
You can also try other terms describing reference works: dictionary, compendium, gazetteer, manual, textbook or truncate some of the terms, e.g. encyclop*. If you need to find non-English reference works, you need to work with non-English terms.
The most important reference works are also mentioned in the list of search systems on the library website.
The most important advice we can give you on generating search terms is try to think of the terms likely to be used in the document. This so-called 'thinking in terms of the document you are looking for' helps you to avoid looking for information with the help of terms that you would use, but encourages you to use terms the author has probably used.
This means, rather paradoxically, that you try to imagine beforehand the content of the document you are hoping to find. Try to consider:
Thinking in terms of the document is easier once you have seen more relevant articles, thus know more about the subject and are more familiar with the jargon used.
This advice applies to classical documents such as books and articles, but also to web pages, reports, blogs and tweets.
You search strategy defines what you search, where you search and how you perform your search. In the course of your search process you take many decisions that affect the quality of search results and the time needed to get those results.
The main decisions in your search strategy relate to:
The special LibGuide search strategy (in Dutch) has more on building succesful search strategies.