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Presearch: Exploratory and Background Resources

Reference and background resources (General)

What's Presearch?

Presearch comes before research!  Exploring your topic and getting some background information at the start of a research project can help you identify useful information (i.e. a theme or subtopic to focus on, possible questions to be answered, timelines, etc.) and save you time. This is also a good way to refine your search - to take a broad topic (education, for example) and narrow it to something that you can cover in a more meaningful way in your paper (do programs like Teach for America really work?).

General Online Reference Resources

(See the boxes below for tips on finding other, more specialized, reference and background information sources.)

Points of View and More

See CQ Researcher, International Debates, and Opposing Views above. 


Finding Reference/Background/Presearch Works in the Search It Library Catalog

The resources above provide links to online collections of reference works, but the WSU Libraries have many more reference works in print that can be valuable for your research, based on topic and specialization.

To find reference books in Search It, search for your broad topic, then add: (encyclopedia* OR handbook* OR dictionar*) - this will lead you to the sections in the Holland and Terrell Libraries and Owen Science and Engineering Library reference collections that may be most relevant for your topic.


"world war i" (encyclopedia* OR handbook* OR dictionar*)

Note: this search could be made more complex, but this is a good starting strategy.

Evaluating Information

Useful Guides

Fall 2023 Update: New/Newish Helpful WSU Libraries Resources and Services

JSTOR  - we have continuing access to ALL of JSTOR's journal content (including the Security Studies and Sustainability thematic collections)! This was originally set to end in June 2023, but has been extended as a permanent subscription. 

Helpful Links

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us