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English 121 - Writing Research Papers

Finding Background Information

If you have a general topic or research question in mind or are new to a subject, it's important to have a basic idea of what your of what you're reading about, what the related subtopics are to your topic or questions and how people think about those things, whether in the past or today.  Understanding what you're reading and thinking about includes knowing the vocabulary related to your topic or areas of inquiry and any other words that you might have seen before or are somewhat familiar with, but which you really can't define. That might mean looking things up in an encyclopedia source or using a dictionary. It may also mean beginning to explore different perspectives on the subject taken by those who are interested in the subject. Once you've gotten a basic overview of the topic or areas of inquiry, you might read some current newspaper, magazine and journal articles to find out how this topic is being discussed currently. For that kind of information, you can explore the "Databases" tab on this Guide.

For now, check out some of these sources for getting background information or an overview of a topic, something you might ask a question about or something you're not yet familiar with.

  E-Reference Books

These encyclopedia sources will help you understand your topic and decide on information you need to search for:

Literature Resources