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UHON 111 Research Guide: Finding Background Information

Why is background information important?

Background information can be found in reference books like those provided in links on this page.  It's always a good idea to learn about your topic before you proceed to narrowing it.  Doing background research seems like more work, but it actually provides you with important information that makes the rest of your research project more efficient.  When you do background research in reference books you can find the following kinds of information:

  • a concise history and general orientation to your subject
  • definitions of terms important to your topic
  • a discussion of the issues and/or research being done on your subject (These are natural paper topics.)
  • a mention of the key players or researchers dealing with your topic
  • an introduction to the vocabulary (jargon) of your topic

If you "front-load" your research, you'll actually save yourself time by orienting yourself to your subject and discovering possible paper topics in the reference works you consult.

Oxford Reference Online

Oxford University Press offers many of its fine reference works online.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Encyclopaedia Britannica provides information to support your understanding and interpretation of literary texts.  Look up allusions to historical and social events or other literary texts in this reference work.

Finding Reference Books Using the Library Catalog

You can find reference books on your subject by doing a subject search and limiting the collection to Reference.

WorldCat Catalog

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