Finding out about a topic, i.e., the "background" information, before doing literature research will help you increase your vocabulary so that you can search the best, most efficient words and also allow you to recognize appropriate books and journal articles even if the authors do not describe the topic the same way you do. The more you know about a topic, the better you'll be able to focus on a specific aspect that would be appropriate for your paper. Background information may be found in the following types of resources which generally provide a summary:
To find other subject encyclopedias, use the ASU Library Catalog and KEYWORD search for your topic and encyclopedia*, for example, "human factors and encyclopedia*".
Handbooks provide a summary of a specific subject and frequently include data compilations and formulas. Handbooks are also a great place to look for "quick facts" about a topic.
Databases with Handbooks:
A full text, online collection of over 2,000 handbooks, data collections, and encyclopedias for science and engineering. This database includes over 100 items in the Civil Engineering and Construction category.
ASM Handbooks A comprehensive guide to the structure, properties, processing, performance, and evaluation of metals and nonmetallic engineering material.
Everyspec EverySpec provides free access to over 55,000 Military, DoD, Federal, NASA, DOE, and Government specifications, standards, handbooks, and publications.