ENG 111: College Reading and Writing (Brault)

Preliminary Research

Unless you are very familiar with your subject matter, you will want to spend a significant amount of time identifying the specific topic that interests you. In fact, you may want to examine several potential topics from which to make a final choice. The library has access to many subject-specialized reference sources that would assist in this initial step, such as reference sources about food and culture, labor issues, or consumerism.

A bit of preliminary research will help you determine the viability of your research topic as well as assist you in narrowing the scope of your topic. Dr. Dunbar will, of course, assist with this issue. Below, you will find a list of resources that may be useful in this first stage of research:

Online collection of Reference sources: 

General Encyclopedia vs. Subject Encyclopedia

general encyclopedia will contain information about a wide range of topics.

The articles are: 

  • written by an editor or staff writer (not necessarily experts)
  • not typically signed, meaning no author is listed
  • short in length
  • provide an overview on a topic, but may not include specific or detailed information
  • Examples:
    • Encyclopedia Britannica (a Krueger Library Database)
    • Encyclopedia Americana (Printed set in the Reference Collection, REF AE5 .E333)


subject encyclopedia will be more focused and detailed information on a specific subject.

The articles are: 

  • written typically by an author with professional knowledge or educational background on the topic
  • signed by the author
  • longer in length; word length varies
  • more detailed and specific about a topic than a general encyclopedia
  • sources are often cited
  • Examples:
    • History of the Mass Media in the United States: An Encyclopedia (Printed set in the Reference Collection, REF P92.U5 H55 1998 )
    • The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars: the United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts (Printed set in the Reference Collection, REF S63.1 .E453 2010 )

Reference Collection

A reference book is a specialized resource (encyclopedia, dictionary, handbook, atlas, guidebook, etc.) that will help you narrow your topic and identify additional books and articles related to your topic.

Here's how to find a reference book using the Krueger Library catalog:

  1. From the library homepage, select the Catalog link under the Research drop-down menu.
  2. Select the Advanced search option, a link just to the right of the search box.
  3. Select Reference from the Collection menu.
  4. Go to the next box for instructions on how to use the WSU Library Catalog.