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The Research Process :: Step by Step

If you can't find an encyclopedia, dictionary or textbook article on your topic, try using broader keywords or ask a librarian or research coach for helpFor example, if your topic is "global warming," consider searching for an encyclopedia on the environment.

Finding background information

Once you have identified keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic.

Background information serves many purposes:

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic such as terminology, dates, events, history, and relevant names or organizations.
  • It can help you refine your topic.
  • Background research might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information.

Background information can be found in:

  • Wikipedia
  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias  
  • article databases

These sources are often listed on the "Find Books" tab of our research by subject guides. You can browse a complete list of the Library's guides by visiting the "Research by Subject" homepage.