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How Can Background Information Help?

Gather background information

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Background Information

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See the big picture

An encyclopedia or other reference source can be a good starting point for learning about major concepts on a broad topic. Lengthy articles can outline the subdivisions of a topic, give different perspectives, and report recent trends or scholarship.

Get the facts

Important names, dates, places etc. are often mentioned in background sources.

Learn the lingo

Look for key terms, terminology, and definitions. Keep these terms in mind when you begin searching for your topic in online databases or the web. 

Check out the author

Background sources are often written by experts; you may want to look for other works by the same author for your topic.

Locate additional sources

Many sources will include a list of additional readings or a bibliography. These references are often the most important works on a topic.

Online Encyclopedias