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Find Background Information

Find Background Information

What is Background Information?

Background information provides a general overview of a research topic, including important terms and concepts, relevant names of people or places, and dates of specific events. Finding background information can help you locate keywords for searching databases and identify more specific areas of your topic that you may want to research further.

Where to Search

Encyclopedia articles contain general facts and basic overviews. Check with your professor before citing an encyclopedia article, as they are not peer-reviewed scholarly sources.

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In high school you were probably told to never ever use Wikipedia for class research because anyone can edit it. Well, college is about breaking rules. You *can* use Wikipedia for research. However:

  • If you find something interesting, make sure to verify it with a refereed source.
  • Make sure to ask your professor before you *cite* Wikipedia as a source. They will probably tell you no.

Wikipedia is most useful for:

  • Engaging your curiosity about a subject by giving you background information and demonstrating the different directions in which your research could go.
  • Introducing you to keywords and vocabulary that will lead you to "better" sources via library databases.
  • Giving you a quick start with finding references. Look at the bottom of the page! There are almost always references there, many of which are of a caliber that you could use and cite in your paper!

So: Use Wikipedia wisely. It is a place to start your research. It should not be where your research ends.

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