References sources, particularly specialized encyclopedias, offer many benefits. Consider the following tips as you review a reference source on your topic to reap all the benefits and make your researching even better.
- Get definitions and background - Reference sources assume that you are new to a topic. Jargon and specialized terminology will be explained and contextualized, which you might not get in more advanced books and journal articles.
- Get caught-up on a topic - Research is a conversation, and often it's been going on for years. Reference sources will provide a historical background and identify key developments to help you understand how we got to the current understandings and theories.
- Identify key people and theories - Who are the most important people and ideas on your topic? Reference sources will help you identify them so you can explore them more deeply.
- Find more sources - Reference sources will provide additional reading, usually in the form of references or background lists. These are a great next-step in your research process.