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Missoula College: WRIT 101

Gather Background Information


Finding background information is the first step in beginning a research project.  Background information gives you a broad understanding of your topic, provides ways to narrow your topic, and helps identify possible keywords.  When doing pre-research you can consult sources like Wikipedia and encyclopedias.  These sources should be used only to gain a broad understanding of your topic and should only be used with caution as sources for your final project.

Try these sources for background information:

Identify Keywords

Using the right keywords when searching for resources will help you get the best results. Before you start searching, take a moment to brainstorm possible keywords. Think outside of the box and try to come up with as many synonyms for your topic as possible. Try typing in your main topic in Google and then the word “synonym” and see what you find. Think about other words that can describe what you are looking for and write them down as you go.

Check out this tutorial for extra help:

What is Peer-Review?

Peer-review is the vetting process that many academic or scholarly sources go through before being published. This process ensures that the information in the article has been checked for accuracy by a group of peers, hence "peer-review".

Many academic databases have a way of limiting results to only peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. If you are unsure if a source has been peer-reviewed, you can usually find out in the "about" section of the journal.

For more information on this process, check out the video below:

Search the Library Databases

Using the Library Databases

Now that you have gathered some background information, its time to start using the library's databases.

Look for Community Sources