Get Your Head Right

You’re probably already done this, but get started with a quick Google search and a search through Wikipedia.

Why?  As you probably already know, these sources:

  • …are easy to read without being an expert in the topic.
  • …give you the overview without digging into the details.
  • …once you read them, make you more prepared to read more scholarly things.

Wikipedia, seriously?

Yeah.  Wikipedia is an example of an encyclopedia, like say Encyclopedia Britannica.  You shouldn’t cite it, because it won’t provide you with anything but a general overview of a topic… but similarly, you shouldn’t cite Britannica either.  Use these to get going, but not as a source for things you’ll put in your paper.

Better Overviews

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) is a giant resource of special encyclopedias that dig into topics more deeply, and like Wikipedia, they are written such that people who are not experts in the topic can understand.  You should use GVRL because in addition to Wikipedia and Google, it:

  • …often provides easy to read overviews of topics that are more comprehensive than Wikipedia.
  • …is written by experts in the subjects, so worrying about authorship is not a worry.
  • …provides perspectives on a topic from a variety of viewpoints.
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