Research @ Longwood: General Overview / Background

Get help with any stage of your research project!

Background Information

Think of this stage as preliminary research. You wouldn't bake a cake without knowing what ingredients to use, or climb a mountain without the proper equipment. Same for research projects!

Where to find background information

Finding background information is really important, especially if you are completely unfamiliar with your topic. You can look in reference materials, like encyclopedias, to get a sense of important dates, persons, and other keywords to search. 

Something you might look for is a book or article with <your topic> and "introduction" or "overview". For example, if you were writing a paper on climate change, perhaps there's a book called "An Introduction to Climate Change". 

What about Wikipedia?

So Wikipedia can actually be a great resource for getting familiar with your topic. But don't let that be your only source of background information! 

  • Remember that ANYBODY can edit Wikipedia. Sometimes there are inaccuracies, and sometimes, if you quote Wikipedia, someone can come along behind you and edit what you've quoted, making it seem like you plagiarized
  • Check the articles and websites cited in the footnotes. Those will help you determine if the information is good and possibly give you some resources you can use.

Don't fall victim to Wikiality! 

Reference Databases

Sometimes we have reference databases or encyclopedias that can help you get started. Here are some that might be useful: