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Get Your Research Started: Find Background Info

Why Background Research Helps

Background research (or pre-research) is the research that you do before you start writing your paper or working on your project. Sometimes background research happens before you've even chosen a topic. The purpose of background research is to make the research that goes into your paper or project easier and more successful. 

Some reasons to do background research include:

  • Determining an appropriate scope for your research: Successful research starts with a topic or question that is appropriate to the scope of the assignment. A topic that is too broad means too much relevant information to review and distill. If your topic is too narrow, there won't be enough information to do meaningful research.
  • Understanding how your research fits in with the broader conversation surrounding the topic: What are the major points of view or areas of interest in discussions of your research topic and how does your research fit in with these? Answering this question can help you define the parts of your topic that you need to explore.
  • Establishing the value of your research: What is the impact of your research and why does it matter? How might your research clarify or change our understanding of the topic?
  • Identifying experts and other important perspectives: Are there scholars whose work you need to understand for your research to be complete? Are there points of view that you need to include or address?

Doing background research helps you choose a topic that you'll be happy with and develop a sense of what research you'll need to do in order to successfully complete your assignment. It will also help you plan your research and understand how much time you'll need to dedicate to understanding and exploring your topic.

Remember: we generally do not cite information from encyclopedias, dictionaries, or reference books in our papers. 

Information adapted from Old Dominion University.

Credo Reference

Credo

Credo is a library database containing digital versions of encyclopedias and other reference works. Think of it as an academic Wikipedia, only curated by librarians instead of the general public.

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