Birding is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating for beginners. How do you find a new bird in the book? How do you even start birdwatching? The simple answer: (1) Get a good bird book and just spend some time looking through it at the different birds. (2) Find another birder and hang out with them. How do you find another birder? Hang around a park with binoculars and bird book, watching others with binoculars and bird book! Or, you could go to your local Wild Bird Center and ask where to go and about local resources.
My favorite field guide – Birds of North America, by Robbins and Chandler – has been around since I began birding in the late 60’s. Though it has gone through several revisions, it still has all the good parts and bits that make it such an outstanding book, bringing a whole new set of info the traditional guides didn’t have. In the front it has a 6 page section on using the book and identifying birds. Periodically I re-read it just to keep the finer points of technique fresh.
And as you gain experience, you want more resources. It was getting more guides, specialized guides. Now it is internet resources. The best of those is Cornell University’s site. For the uninitiated, Cornell is the place to go for any birder aspiring to be a professional ornithologist. It is THE place for ornithologists. (And, having said that, I’ll get flames from outstanding ornithologists who have gone elsewhere. And I apologize for overlooking your school. But let me know anyway and I’ll add your school to the list of places to be for ornithologists.)