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Research Guides

Education: Background Information and Starting Your Research

Getting Started with an Unfamiliar Topic

When you begin research on a topic with which you are not familiar, you may want to start by reading some basic materials written by experts in their fields.  Here are some resources to get you started on your journey of discovery:

Encyclopedias can give you definitions and general information on a topic.  See the Libraries Encyclopedias Guide for information on how to find them. 

For example, Education Today: Issues, Policies & Practices (2018)  examines education in America, with articles written by education experts and administrators on a wide range of topics, starting with a historical look at education, and including sections on: Education Theory; Psychology; Law; Government; School Safety; Diversity; Curriculum; Counseling; Teaching Methods; Technology in Education; Testing; Alternative Education; Teacher Education; International Perspectives; and more.(available through Gale Virtual Reference Library)

Handbooks are good resources for discovering information about a topic.  They are written by experts and often provide overviews of research and topics as well as including bibliographies that help you find additional studies related to the topic.  See examples below:

Books are often good places to start your explorations. Scholarly books contain authoritative information which can include comprehensive or in-depth coverage of research, historical perspectives, and overviews of a topic. They are good for getting background information on a topic, to add more in-depth information to your topic, and often to get multiple views on a topic. Click on the Books tab on the left for information on how to find books.

Perusing Literature Reviews is another way to quickly get familiar with a topic and also to find some of the major research studies gathered together by experts.  Click the Literature Review tab on the left for information on how to find literature reviews.




Here are a few examples of handbooks on various topics.  Other handbooks can be found by using the UW Libraries Search box and including "handbook" in your search: