Academic research is a process with many steps, and is almost never linear. Researchers often go back to earlier steps as they read, write, and ask new questions along the way.
Before you begin, make a plan! Think about how much time you have to complete your project, and what steps you will need to take to get there.
Once you have a plan, use reference materials like encyclopedias to get background information on your topic, discover important authors and titles in your field, and learn the vocabulary you need to find additional resources. You can also read literature reviews on your topic to find the latest research and recently published studies.
Encyclopedias are a great way to orient yourself to the basic facts on a topic. Entries often cover the major academic debates involved and provide suggested readings for further study. The following encyclopedias and dictionaries are located online, but be sure to search the library catalog for other helpful sources in print.