Itís good that you want to not be take advantage of. The more you know, the better off you will be.
Besides the books suggested by the others, you should know that your township/municipality will be the best resource for the requirements of your building. As part of the permit process, they will be inspecting your project every step of the way, and they should be very picky about the foundation as it is the key to a stable home. They can tell you exactly what is and is not acceptable for the foundation.
Besides that, hereís some basics. A foundation usually consists of one of two products: poured concrete, or concrete block. Iíll elaborate on each in a moment. The walls usually will be either 8 inches of 10 inches thick depending on 1 or 2 story house. Local codes may specify differently. Depending on where you live, if it snows there, the foundation will have to go underground enough to be below the frost line. Where I live, thatís at least 46 inches. If you are planning a basement, you will need to go even deeper. If not, and you live in a warm climate, you can get a monolithic slab, which can be the least expensive, and essentially leaves you with a concrete first floor.
The first thing done (after the digging) is the pouring of the footings. This is what distributes the weight of the building, and usually consists of rebar (steel rods for strength) covered with concrete, but before the concrete is poured, the housing inspector will come and make sure the hole is deep/wide enough and the rebar is properly placed, etc.. Then the footings are poured. After they cure properly, the walls are constructed, either by more poured concrete or concrete block, which is like large hollow bricks glued together with mortar. Depending on your area, one may be cheaper to do than the other. Opinions vary (I prefer poured concrete) but properly done, both should be trouble-free in stable soil. Poured concrete walls will have rebar inside it as well, and in some places it may be required that the hollow concrete blocks be filled with rebar/concrete after they are laid for added strength. Also, inspections by your municipality may vary depending on the type of foundation.
Last, if you end up with a crawlspace (area between the first floor and the ground underneath) or a basement, proper drains may need to be placed in the soil to keep the area relatively dry depending on how wet the soil is. I say relatively dry, because usually there is some amount of moisture in them. The idea is to keep this to a minimum. Again, your township/municipality can be the best source for these requirements or recommendations.