One good way to get a general overview of a topic you are considering is to do some background reading on the subject.
A general encyclopedia is a good place to start.
A subject encyclopedia can also be helpful. There are subject encyclopedias for virtually all disciplines, from education to social work to microbiology. Our reference librarians can help you find the right subject encyclopedia for your topic.
Hints for Successful Background Reading
It's hard to do this kind of background reading if you are pressed for time at the end of the semester. It's also hard to keep an open mind and get a creative spark going if you are exhausted and stressed out.
FOCUS YOUR SEARCH!
Background reading can help you focus your search for a topic from a very broad subject to a narrower, more "do-able" one (remember, you need to fit your topic to the dimensions of your assignment).
While you are reading up on your topic, take notes! Jot down:
dates of significant events
names of people who played an important role