This is the "Find Background Material" page of the "Undergraduate Research Process" guide.
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This guide will help familiarize you with the research process to investigate a topic no matter your subject discipline.
Last Updated: Mar 9, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Dr. Chad Pearson
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Sterling C. Evans Library
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College Station, TX 77843
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Encyclopedia Britannica

Britannica consists of Micropaedia (Ready Reference), Macropaedia (Knowledge in Depth), Propaedia, and Index volumes.  In the Micro you will find short articles, in the Marco you will find longer articles, in the Propaedia you will find outlines for fields of study and the credentials of the authors of the Macropaedia articles.  Be sure to look up your topic in the index volumes to find all of the articles where your topic is mentioned.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica
Call Number: AE5 .E363 2005
ISBN: 1593392362

Cover Art
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
Here is a link to the Online version of Britannica


Anyone can update Wikipedia articles so proceed with caution.  While Wikipedia might be considered a good information source you may not want to rely on it as your only source.


Research Process

A research process should be tailored to finding the best resources on your topic. The library's information resources are designed to meet the needs of a variety of subject disciplines and course-specific research topics. In general, the steps in a typical research process are:

 Do exploratory research (focus on background material and broad introduction to subject)


Develop the topic (narrowing the focus)


Locate information (actively search for sources in a variety of databases, books, etc.)


Synthesize and write (compile notes from sources or experiments and decide on best writing structure)


Each phase of the research process is important and there are techniques to help with each step. If you are having trouble finding or narrowing down your topic, consider using exercises that incorporate brainstorming:

Brainstorming exercises



Basic Sources for Initial Research

  • Generalized Topics
    This is a list of generalized topics that can be used for argument papers, social science and possibly some hard science inquiries. For any field of research, list your topics and then narrow to subtopics for focused research.
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF Files
    This page provides print-ready PDF files from the 36th Edition of the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). The data for the 36th edition was selected in June 2014.

    While it may seem a waste of time to consult these lists, remember that most databases and library catalogs use terminology and classify content according to Library of Congress subject terms. Learning more about the best terms for your topic also helps you more effectively search library resources for information.
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings
    Same information as found in the links above but in print form. These BIG RED books are found on the 3rd floor in Evans and the MSL Reference area.
    Call Number: Z695.L695
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
    Use this source to brainstorm for topics within a major or career.

Thesauri Terms for LC Subject Headings or the Big Red Books

UF Used for
BT Broader Term
RT Related Term
NT Narrower Term
SA See Also


Spy films (May Subd Geog)

When subdivided by the appropriate geographic, topical, and/or form subdivisions,

this heading is used for works about spy films.

UF  Cloak and dagger films

        Espionage films

        Secret agent films

        Secret service films

BT  Motion pictures

NT  James Bond films

Purposes of Research

Research is one of the fundamental processes humans use to discover or make connections among information. While this list is more specific to social sciences fields, research in general can be categorized according to three purposes: Exploration, Description, and Explanation.


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