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Research Orientation: Start Your Research Here

Some definitions, tips, and suggestions to help you get oriented to Library research.

What Is Presearch?

Getting to know a bit about a topic before you start your research is a wise move. Find out how in this brief screencast.

The Uses and Abuses of Wikipedia

Like all encyclopedias, Wikipedia is not a place to end your research, but it can be a good launching point from which to start. Wikipedia articles provide an overview of a topic which can which can help you find other more appropriate and citable resources.

Look for these things in a Wikipedia article:

  • Vocabulary on your topic
  • History and background informaiton
  • Controversies and subtopics you can use to narrow your topic
  • Citations and references you can follow and explore for yourself
  • Further Reading/External Links

But remember - this is a crowd-sourced resource. The information may not be accurate. Read the posted warnings and think critically about the information you find.

Presearch Resources

What is a reference resource?

Reference resources help you get started on a new topic, answer quick questions, and/or point you to further resources.

Examples of reference resources include:

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Thesauri
  • Atlases
  • Almanacs
  • Indexes

Do I cite dictionaries and encyclopedias?

Many students wonder if they have to cite dictionaries and encyclopedias in their assignments.

You must cite ALL sources that you reference in your work. This includes dictionaries and encyclopedias. This means when you:

  • quote a definition of a word
  • quote or paraphrase something from an encyclopedia entry
  • include an idea you learned about from a dictionary or encyclopedia in your writing

you need to cite the dictionary or encyclopedia as you would any other source.

However, if you read a dictionary or encyclopedia as background, then do other research based on what you learned and never refer to the ideas you saw in those first resources, you don't have to cite the dictionary or encyclopedia.