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If you already know a lot about your topic, you might be able to skip this step; but, reading an article in an encyclopedia might be a great way to find out if there have been important laws or court cases that involved your topic. Establishing a "time frame" can be helpful also. If you're researching an event that happened back before computerized databases were invented, you may need to use the older (printed) indexes to locate articles that were published near the time it occurred.
Even getting a definition from a dictionary can help you focus on how you're going to approach your topic. If you are doing this research for a term paper, your instructor may expect you to have a "thesis statement" that states clearly what your objective is. Often the thesis statement can be presented as the question that your paper will answer.
Be sure to check with your teacher if you're doing this research for a class. Instructors at the college level may have higher standards and/or expectations than you're used to; but most are glad to explain anything in their syllabus that is unclear to you .
Some of your background reading may need to be done in Reference books that cannot be borrowed. You can read them in the library and take notes OR you can photocopy the pages that have information on your topic. Our copiers charge 15 cents for each exposure and will accept nickels, dimes, quarters and CRISP one dollar bills.
We also have some titles in Gale's Virtual Reference Library that are available 24/7. These are searchable eBooks on a variety of topics. Hopefully, you'll be curious enough to explore these when you have time. Our newest addition is Credo Reference which you can find in our Database List. Searching at their website will connect you to HUNDREDS of reference books electronically. If you're wondering how that works, please, ask a Librarian.
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