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HED 351 - Needs Assessment and Program Planning

Health topics

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.

These resources are especially helpful during the idea generation stage. Finding good background information on a general topic can help you turn that topic into a research question.

They will also help you determine what vocabulary and background concepts you will need to identify relevant peer-reviewed sources in the databases and identify more specific areas of your topic that you may want to research further.

Reference Resources

Primary vs. Seconday Sources

Primary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Exp: Farley, S. M., Seoh, H., Sacks, R., & Johns, M. (2014). Teen use of flavored tobacco products in New York City. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 16(11), 1518-1521. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntu126


Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be books or articles in encyclopedias, newspapers, or popular magazines, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

Exp: Forsyth, S. R., Kennedy, C., & Malone, R. E. (2013). The effect of the Internet on teen and young adult tobacco use: A literature review. Journal Of Pediatric Health Care, 27(5), 367-376. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2012.02.008

PR Newswire. (2016, October 11). Major E-cigarette Study Finds Strong Association between Teen Vaping and Smoking. PR Newswire US.


Learn more here: Primary and Secondary Sources, Ithaca College Library

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