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LIBS 302 Intro to Liberal Studies

This guide will help you define your research topic and identify resources

What is Background Information?

Often when we start a research project, we begin by filling in the gaps in our basic knowledge, providing a foundation of knowledge from which we can begin to answer our question. Background information helps you make sure you have your facts right about your topic, and that the assumptions on which you base your question are backed up by evidence. 

For example, using our climate change denial example from "Getting started," we have to find evidence that climate change denial exists, and that there is scientific research showing climate change itself exists. There are many ways we might go about this. I like to start doing some basic research on my topic in general, just to see what's out there, and what the scholarly conversation already is around my topic. 

Books and encyclopedias are great sources for finding background information, and beginning to inform your research. The following links will help you find books and basic articles about your topic. 

Subject Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Great for overviews and background information. Reference sources provide information that is generally considered accepted and factual by researchers and scholars. They typically are organized A-Z by topic terms, but they are easy to search to find relevant information. Always look to see if there are suggestions for further readings or bibliographies, which can direct you to additional scholarly sources. 

Finding Books

OneSearch will search for all of the types of things you can access via the library, including books, media, articles, reports, news stories, and more. Books are a great place to start building a foundation for research. You may want to start with a simple keyword search for your general topic. Limit your search to just books to find things that will give you a good overview of your topic. Take the time to browse the results, looking at individual records, to get a sense for what is available. 

Search OneSearch

Use this form to search OneSearch. You can choose whether to search keywords, or look for a specific title, author, or subject term. You can also narrow down to the type of item you're looking for.

Evaluating Wikipedia Articles

In a nutshell: "You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia)."--from Wikipedia article: Researching with Wikipedia