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Research Guide


If you can't find an encyclopedia, dictionary or journal article on your topic, try using broader keywords or ask a librarian for help.

For example, if your topic is on Francis Asbury, consider looking in a dictionary or encyclopedia focused on Methodism.

Purpose of Background Research

Once you have identified some key terminology, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research 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 -- terminology, dates, events, history, and names of organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.
  • Background research might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information on your topic.

Sources of Background Information

Background information can be found in:

  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias

These sources are in the Complete Resource List or in our subject guides.