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COM101/111: Introduction to Research & APA Citation

Why is background research important?

Conducting background research is an important step in the earlier stages of your research. Background research allows you to:

Gain a better understanding of the topic. Sometimes you may not be very familiar with the topic you've been assigned or have selected. Background research can help you learn about different areas, perspectives, and issues of the topic.

Narrow down your topic. Getting a better understanding of different issues and perspectives of your draft topic will help in developing the final research topic or question you will use in your assignment.

Determine the amount and types of information on the topic. You may have an assignment which has source requirements (e.g., find journal articles published in the past five years). By doing some background searching, you can determine if there are enough resources on your topic that match the assignment requirements. If you find that there are not enough sources, you could modify your topic early on in the research process.

Identify search words / keywords. As you browse through the sources from your background research, you'll learn some terms and words authors use to describe your topic. Make a list of these words since you can use them when searching for sources.

Tools for conducting background research 

  • Library Search: Search your topics on the library website to explore the types of resources available on your topic.
  • Library Databases: The library has databases which provide overviews on different topics such as:
  • Google  / Google Scholar: Try searching your topic on Google to see the types of information available. In addition to background information, you may also discover who are the relevant individual/group experts for the subject area. 
  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia can provide some background information which can help you learn about your topic. Since Wikipedia pages are created and updated by different users, they can contain unreliable information. As part of doing research, it's important to review the Wikipedia page and determine if the information and sources cited are reliable.