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Reading background material about your topic saves time and frustration during the research and writing process! You will have more knowledge and more focus to keep you going in the right direction.

Background information is especially important if you are not familiar with the subject you are researching, or have not decided on which aspect you want to focus. Find a source of information, like an encyclopedia with:

  • a brief overview of the topic;

  • definitions of terms and jargon in the field;

  • key names, events, and terms related to the topic

  • an introductory, select bibliography (i.e., list of suggested sources by scholars or experts in the field).

All of this will help you to get your head wrapped around the topic and will help you to find information in the library catalog, article databases, and other sources.

How do I Find Background Info?

  • In the database Opposing Viewpoints, look at the "Browse Issues" page to find an issue. Read the initial article for background information.

  • Use the Library Catalog to find a general book about the topic or area of interest. Browse the table of contents and the introduction to help you understand the highlights and context of the topic.

  • Google your topic and add site:edu OR use define: (your topic)

  • In the GALILEO database Academic Search Complete, search for your topic. Limit to Magazines. Find an article that is at least one page long.

  • Use Wikipedia to get the gist of a subject, but do NOT quote or cite this source for academic or professional work!

Begin Your Research