Using the Reference Collection
The reference collection is the basic starting point for almost any research you need to do. The reference collection generally has sources that will give you your first step on a research topic, or the specific information you are seeking.
This is where you will find the encyclopedias and dictionaries that will give you an introduction to your topic, a brief history of your concept, the names and histories of the people involved, and so on. In addition to the standard encyclopedias, such as Encyclopaedia Britannica AE5 .N532 or Academic American Encyclopedia AE5 .A23, you will also find subject encyclopedias and dictionaries such as Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse HV 5804 .E94 1987, Encyclopedia of Religion BL 31 .E46 1987, or The Harper Collins Dictionary of Sociology HM 17 .J37 1991. Generally, you should try one of subject encyclopedia or dictionary before turning to one of the more general sources.
If you are looking for material dealing with literature you will find sources to give an overview of critical thought like Contemporary Literary Criticism PN 771 .C59. You'll find tools like Something About the Author PN 451 .S6 or Contemporary Authors PN 781 .C6 to give you biographical information on an author and a list of their works. You can consult the Book Review Index Z 1035 .A1 B6 or Book Review Digest Z 1219 .C96 to find book reviews.
If your need is for statistics or a quick review of a more recent event you can consult our collection of almanacs and other annuals such as Information Please Almanac AY 64 .I55, Statistical Abstract of the United States HA 202 .A3 or Facts on File D 410 .F31. For more detailed statistics you can use the subject statistics sources like Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics HV 6787 . or Market Share Reporter HF 5410 .M35.
Finally, if you want a source that can serve as the basic groundwork for your research you might want to look at sources like CQ Researcher H35 .K353 (and it's previous title Editorial Research Reports H35 .K35), or Information Series on Current Topics call number varies. These will usually serve to give you a solid introduction to a topic, some relevant statistics, and a list of sources that you can go to for more detailed information.