Evaluating Sources: Background Info

What makes books, articles, and other sources useful and how to evaluate them.
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Why Background Information?

Background information is the foundation upon which you build good research.

Reading background information allows you to quickly learn more about a subject and help you make informed decisions about how to approach your research and select reliable sources.

Background reading will help you:

  • Identify key concepts, names, events, authors, terms, etc. associated with your topic.
  • Determine whether your topic is too narrow or too broad.
  • Figure out if there is consensus or controversy surrounding your topic.
  • Understand the historical context and relationships to other topics.
  • Find potential articles & books in bibliographies.

Your Research Plan

  1. Choose a Topic
  2. Find Background Information
    • General encyclopedias
    • Subject-specific encyclopedias
    • Handbooks
    • Textbooks
    • Reliable web sources
  3. Find Articles, Books, Web Sites
  4. Evaluate Your Sources
  5. Write Your Paper & Cite Sources

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Find a brief definition or overview of your topic using the Library's online dictionaries and encyclopedias.