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Research Without Pain: 1b. Get an Overview

Research can be fun if you follow these simple steps.

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Sources of Overviews

Reference sources are often the best sources of overview information.  The BEST way to find these sources is to meet with an Instruction Librarian.

Reference books are located in the Garver Room, and appear in the OWHL catalog.



Tip: Find reference books associated with your topic by using Reference Universe, a searchable database containing the indexes and tables of contents of all of the books in the Garver Room.

Why start with an Overview?

There are several reasons why it is a good idea to begin research by getting an overview of your topic:

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good introduction to the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic -- terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.  These will be important search terms.
  • It can help you to refine your topic by making you aware of aspects of your subject.
  • It might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information on your topic.

Developing a Searching Vocabulary

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. As you use reference sources to gain an overview, make note of any specific names, dates, places, events, or specific vocabulary associated with your topic. 

The searching vocabulary you develop can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a screeching halt.