Read some general information about your topic that can be found in a reference source. What is a reference source? It can be a database that contains encyclopedias, handbooks, atlases and other general knowledge. It can also be a print book that lives in the Stacks (shelves) or the Reference section of a library.
While background databases aren't sources you typically should use in your researched argument, these kinds of encyclopedia articles are a great starting point as they provide general information, context, potential subtopics, and more. Jot down some notes about what you read and keep track of where you found that information (i.e. record the citation of the encyclopedia article). Keep in mind the importance of using a source’s bibliography or list of references in your own research.
IUCAT is Indiana University's online library catalog. Search it to find items held by the IU Libraries statewide, including books, government publications, journals, and other types of material.
Background Information & Books
Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.
This is important because:
Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.
Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.