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PACE: Beginning Research 

Gathering Background Information

You've probably already learned quite a bit about your topic by going through the process of deciding what you are going to research, and then further developing your topic by deciding what you would like to write about. But before you sit down at a computer and start searching for books and articles about your topic, it would be best to gather some background information first.

The purpose of gathering background information is to help you understand your topic in more depth, or perhaps think about a different view or a subtopic that you had not previously considered.

You may find as you begin your research there are some very basic aspects about your topic that you would like more information about. Having this additional information may make your further research much more fruitful. As you use these sources make notes of phrases, words, events, people associated with your topic. These will help you locate additional information as you proceed with your research.

(These sources often do NOT count as any of the required resources in your assignment, however they still may be very useful to you! You should ask your professor if you feel a resource may be appropriate for your final paper.)


Some Sources for Background Information

Online Reference Sources A list of clickable links for online encyclopedias, magazines, and reference books that the library subscribes to. Some must be used on campus.
Resources by Subject and Course Check out this page for links to Online sources, subject specific topic guides, useful websites, and course-specific webpages.
Wikipedia This online site allows you to search for articles written about numerous topics, often providing suggested links, key terms, and impressive backgrounds. However, you must be aware that Wikipedia is not considered an authority in any way; any person can edit any entry at any time. So if you find useful information here, check it out to make sure it is accurate. Since it is so changable, you will never want to use Wikipedia as a source for your research. Instead, look at the Reference list, and try to find those actual resources they used, and consult them yourself.

The Reference Collection

Using reference sources in the library's Reference Collection can be very useful. Look for subject encyclopedias that will focus on your topic from the perspective of a particular discipline. Ask a librarian at the Research Assistance Desk for help in locating these sources.

You can also use these books to help you locate material in the circulating collection. Note the call number of a Reference book that is useful for your topic, for example the Encyclopedia of Leadership. Drop the REF and use the initial letters and numbers as a guide to finding similar material that circulates. For example, if you wanted to find circulating books similar to the Encyclopedia of Leadership, you would go to the second floor and browse the HD57 section.

PACE Resources main page

Go back to Developing your topic

Move on to Deciding which Source of Information to Use

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL