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Introduction to the Research Process: Find Background Information

Find Background Information

Preliminary research will help you find basic information and main ideas.

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Search the Catalog

Use the quick search below, or start at

Sources of Background Information

Sources that provide a broad, general view of a topic are a great place to get quick facts and ideas. Bear in mind you will not end your research here - you still need to use in-depth sources to complete your project (see next tab).

Starter sources include:

  • Textbook(s) and required class readings
  • General Google and Wikipedia searches
  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Online reference databases such as CQ Researcher or Oxford Art Online

Search Terms and Keywords

Search terms (or keywords) are single words and short phrases that describe your topic. Search terms are entered into the library catalog and databases and can be refined throughout the research process.

Find search terms in:

  • Your research questions: who, what, where, when, why
  • Background reading sources listed above
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles
  • Thesaurus
  • Brainstorm keywords with your instructor, a librarian, or your friend

Revise your Topic

Finding too much information?

Your topic may be too broad. Narrow it by:

  • Time period
  • Geography
  • Population
  • Aspect (a particular genre or event)
  • Period/Style

Not finding enough information?

Your topic may be too narrow. Broaden it by:

  • Related issues
  • Expand the time period, geographic location, or population