To become familiar with your topic you want to identify broad overviews of the subject, definitions of the topic, key issues, major dates and events, as well as keywords and subject-specific vocabulary.
In-depth Research can provide you with background, history, context and multiple perspectives about your topic (books) as well as specific or very recent information (magazine and journal articles).
Web Searching can be a good place to start learning about a topic, but often can take a lot of work to identify if a web site is a good source or not.
Citations are how you indicate to your readers what sections in your paper are your ideas and what are the ideas of others. Plus, they are a required part of writing a research paper.
The Research Tool Box gives you lots of tutorials to learn different research skills.
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