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How Do I… Find Background Information?

Once you’ve thought of a topic or research question you’re interested in researching, one of the next steps is to do some background research. The scholarly books and articles your instructors will likely want as sources can be dense and difficult to read if you don’t know at least a little about your topic. Below are some resources that will help you do some background research.


Best for: Getting a basic idea of what your topic is about and finding keywords

Although you won’t want to use Wikipedia as a source in your paper, this can be a great starting point to start exploring the basics of your topic, and may even help you brainstorm keywords to use in library resources. Learn more about Keywords.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Best for: Exploring both sides of a popular issue and narrowing down large topics

Opposing Viewpoints in Context covers today’s biggest social issues and includes credible sources such as pro/con viewpoints, reference articles, interactive maps, infographics and more. Supports social sciences, sciences, humanities, and current events.

CQ Researcher

Best for: Overviews and historical backgrounds on popular issues

Read reports on popular issues that include background, chronologies, pro/con arguments, and more. Focuses on US politics and political issues, with some international content (i.e. US relations).

Sage Knowledge

Best for: Basic overviews of social science topics

Browse by subject and find interdisciplinary encyclopedias, handbooks, and books. Particularly good for the social sciences and research methods.

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