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The Research Process

Sources of Background Information

Background information can be found in:

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

These sources are often listed on the Find Books tab of our subject guides. You can browse a complete list of the Library's guides by visiting the LibGuides homepage.

Want to search hundreds of encyclopedias and dictionaries and more, all at once? Try Credo Reference!

Tip!

If you can't find an encyclopedia, dictionary or textbook article on your topic, try using broader keywords or ask a librarian for help.

For example, if your topic is Global Warming, consider searching for an encyclopedia on the environment.

Purpose of Background Research

Once you have identified some key terminology, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research serves many purposes.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic -- terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.
  • Background research might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information on your topic.