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ENG 103/201: Composition

This guide will introduce you to the steps of the research process and resources relevant to College Reading & Writing students.

Why is background research important?

When you first embark on a new research project, chances are that you don't know everything about your topic! That's okay; even professional researchers don't know everything about a topic when they start new research. Part of the research process is building your background knowledge. Ask yourself:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • What do I know I need to figure out about this topic?

Background sources include encyclopedias, dictionaries, pro-con essays, and other kinds of reference materials. These aren't sources you'll cite in your works cited page (unless you're quoting a definition in a dictionary, for example). Instead, these are sources meant to help prime your search for other sources like news, peer-reviewed journal articles, etc. Searching for background information might also include digging into an organization's or individual's website to learn more about it. Building background knowledge can help you better understand your topic. Some benefits to conducting background research include:

  • Narrowing down your topic based on what you read
  • Identifying key figures and events to consider on your topic
  • Encountering new language and keywords to refine your search strategy
  • Finding primary and secondary sources cited in these reference works that you can investigate further
  • And even helping you understand your subject area better, if you're researching something related to your major!

There are many ways you could go about building your background knowledge. Below, you'll find links to a few recommended starting points.


Background Information Sources