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?).
(See the boxes below for tips on finding other, more specialized, reference and background information sources.)
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 Terrell, Owen or Animal Sciences library reference collection 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.