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ENG 101 Research and Composition R. Romano: Background Sources

Selected Background and Viewpoint Resources

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Why look for a Background Source?

It is very difficult to perform research on a topic if you know little about it.

Consulting a background essay or article on your topic will allow you to:

  • Obtain an accurate and fairly unbiased overview of your topic.
  • Learn the key people, places and organizations involved - and learn the proper spellings of these!
  • Begin to develop an understanding of the topic if it is new to you, or if you have knowledge of the topic, perhaps learn other aspects of it and/or other points of view in relation to the topic.
  • You can also use these resources to help you select a topic, just browse the reports and look for a topic that interests you.

Viewpoint Sources:  Closely related to background sources are viewpoint sources - essentially the opinions of individuals with experience and in-depth knowledge of the topic. 

What does the library offer for background and viewpoint sources?

We offer subject encyclopedias in print and in electronic format and these are excellent sources of overview essays on many diverse topics.  We also offer specialized databases for background sources, including CQ Researcher, as well as viewpoint resouces such as Opposing Viewpoints.

Try a search for your topic in one or more of the resources listed.  We suggest keeping the search rather simple at this point:  a word or two relating to the main topic should work well to get you started. 

You may not actually cite sources you read as background information (some professors do not allow that), but remember it will be worth looking at to provide you with the information to help you locate other sources.

Important Note!  Do not use these background databases as your main source of materials.  While Opposing Viewpoints does offer many supporting sources in addition to their viewpoint essays, the other databases provide many, many additional articles.  Use the background sources for their intended purpose, essentially they provide introductory information that will help you search other sources more effectively.

If you have trouble with any part of the process please contact us.