Chapter 2: Introduction to Background Research

In this chapter you will learn about the importance of background research and topic exploration. You will also learn about specific library resources that can help you find background information.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify background research databases.
  • Explain the purpose of background research.
  • Describe how to conduct background research.
  • Apply background research to enhance understanding of course content.

ACRL Frame Alignment:

Building Background Knowledge Through Research

Before we dive into how to complete a research assignment or project, let’s begin with how to gain a foundational understanding of different topics and concepts.  It is important to have a basic understanding of a topic before you begin to tackle a more in-depth investigation or analysis. This basic understanding is called .  Depending on the topic, you may already have some background information based on your life experiences, movies you’ve seen, etc. However, we often need to build on our current knowledge with additional background research. Background research is the process of acquiring foundational information and can provide us with:

  • context; so that we understand the significance of the topic and how it relates to larger ideas or concepts
  • key terminology; so that we know what words or phrases people use to discuss the topic
  • names of people or organizations that are important to the topic
  • specific issues or subtopics that relate to the broader topic (this is a great way to get ideas for focused research questions).

You may be inclined to jump right to Google or Wikipedia for background information.  These can be great resources for finding basic, general info, or quick answers (like what movies won Oscars in 2019). However, since you are learning how to enhance your understanding of academic information and improve your academic research skills, you should utilize the specialized academic sources that are available to you.

The SCC Library provides many resources to support your coursework and research including reference (which are great for doing background research). Reference databases include the full text of sources such as in a variety of subject areas.

Reference sources provide fact-based and straightforward overviews of topics that are beneficial for building background knowledge.  On the next page are links to some of the SCC library reference databases and examples of reference articles.

Key Takeaways

  • Background research may build on knowledge you already have about a particular topic.
  • Use library resources such as reference databases for background research.
  • Background research is useful for gaining an overview or foundational understanding of a topic so that you can better grasp more complex or in-depth aspects of the topic
  • Use background research to enhance your understanding of course material and concepts.