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When you first approach a topic, it's a good idea to determine what's commonly known about the subject. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Use the readings from the course.
- Ask an expert (such as the professor).
- Look for forewords or introductions to the literary text you're planning to use.
- Check encyclopedias for summaries of an author's work, or their context. Encyclopedias and dictionaries can provide summaries, quick definitions of unfamiliar terms, and recommended further reading. Some possibilities are:
Searchable online reference books such as encyclopedias, dictionaries and quotation books in many subject areas.
Reference Librarian, science specialty
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Drew University Library, http://www.drew.edu/library