Sharon Tate Moody has written a short, but excellent, tutorial on the organization of land records at U.S. county courthouses. I would suggest this be required reading for all genealogy newcomers. In fact, some of us old timers could benefit from it as well. For instance, she explains the Cott and Russell index systems.
Sharon's tutorial is published as her weekly genealogy column in the Tampa Tribune at http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/aug/23/tr-learn-the-ropes-to-mine-courthouse-deed-records/life/.