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 first stage in finding information is a short exploration of your subject. You ask yourself questions such as:
To answer these questions you can investigate your subject briefly with the help of some of these reference works and search engines:
Scholars use many different publication types, either passively (as source) or actively (as a means to distribute their research findings and studies). Active publication is done overwhelmingly in journal articles and books. Passively a much broader spectrum of publication types is used. A list of publication types and the types of information that they carry:
The right search terms are the most important conditons for an effective search.
Keep in mind the different kinds of terms:
You don't have to think of terms all by yourself. Use the tools:
In the special LibGuide page on formulating a search question you will find more information on how to generate search terms
In scholarly research, Wikipedia can be used for:
Please bear in mind that the various language versions of Wikipedia may differ: as a rule the larger versions (for instance the English version) is of a higher quality, because on average more people contribute to an article. Compare the article in the different language versions.
Another thing one can do is study the talk pages of an article. It shows the (low or high) level of discussion amongst editors. You can take that into account in your decision on how to use the information provided in the article.
Contrary to what is often thought, Wikipedia is a reference work with explicit rules, policy and control.
In the special LibGuide Wikipedia more details, background information and examples of good Wikipedia-use.