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​Getting Started with Research

A guide to help with the essentials of library research

Knight Library Reference Collection

Knight Library has a Reference Collection on Level 1 near the Research Help Desk.

Photograph of hawk sculpture sitting on top reference collection shelves

 Reference works contain background information on a variety of topics related to the major fields of study at the University of Oregon and beyond. Use this information to check facts, look for ideas, and to get an overview of a topic or idea. The items in this collection cannot be checked out, they are kept in the building so that all may use them.

Materials can be very specialized in this collection. 

Photograph of Native American encyclopedias and other reference works

Our branch libraries also have reference materials at their locations. Use the link below to browse some of our Subject Encyclopedias.

Background Info/Reference Databases - General Subjects

Before you start any research on your topic, you must develop some background knowledge including facts, dates, and names of important people, places, or theories. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language (look for kewords!) when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. 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.

Using Wikipedia for Research Infographic

Infographic about using Wikipedia for research - text accessible version available at link below

Accessible text description of Using Wikipedia for Research

Thanks to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of this graphic under a Creative Commons license.

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