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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 1d. Find Background Information

This guide walks you through the steps of the research process.

Sources of Background Information

Background information can be found in:

  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias 
  • article databases

Look in Library Databases

The library subscribes to a variety of databases that you can use to find background information about your topic.

Try these:

Purpose of Background Research

Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research:

  • Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it.
  • Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, etc.
  • Can help refine your topic.
  • Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information.

Background Information on the Web

Background information can also be found on the Web, but you need to make sure to evaluate the information you find there.

Unlike information you access through the library that has already been reviewed by editors and librarians, freely-available information found on the Wed does not necessarily go through this review process. To learn how to evaluate information found on the Web go to evaluation listed under Step 3d.

While you should not be using information from Wikipedia as a source in your paper, it can be useful in providing you with an overview of your idea, pointing you to other sources that could be credible (look under the references and external links), and helping you to further define your idea by offering new ideas.