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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Writing papers for 1st and 2nd year undergrads (Science, Math, Psyc)

Background Information

Before you start working on your paper, look for background information about your topic.

Background information gives a mental map of the topic plus helps you understand the main concepts or jargon used in scholarly articles.

There are many types of background information resources, such as encyclopedias, print and electronic book, dictionaries, and the web and Wikipedia used judiciously.  See the subject library guides for ideas about background information sources, or check with the science librarian.

The boxes below are relevant to finding background information.

Once you have identified sources of background information, you will be prepared to read specialized scholarly articles and books.

After you finish reviewing this page, go to the next two pages about finding articles as well as books. NOTE: popular articles, and a special type of scholarly article called a "review article",  are other sources of background information. Books, unless they are highly specialized, can also provide excellent background information.

Video Tutorial: Background Information

This video tutorial  for undergraduate use discusses the role of "background information" in library research. This was done for a summer institute about data. It makes some points that are relevant to any subject area.  

Using Advanced Google Search to Find Background Information

You can use Google to find background information.

Use the Google Advanced Search, to do a precise search. Then, evaluate one of the webpages that come up.  The resource below provides ideas about how to evaluate websites.

Evaluating Web Resources

Web resources can be rich sources of information on a topic, but when conducting research, it's important to consider the quality and accuracy of sites you visit on the open web. Use the CRAP test to determine whether a web resource is trustworthy: 

 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a valuable source of background information and stepping stone to discovering academic resources. *Often wikipedia has useful links listed at the bottom of an article.*

You will of course have to confirm independently information you find in Wikipedia.

Here is a detailed guide about Wikipedia.

For information about the reliability of Wikipedia, see this Wikipedia article.