Exploration of a topic is an important part of the research process. Take the time to reflect on your topic and gather some background information before jumping right into your paper or project. Wikipedia is recommended as a place to start the exploration stage of your research. Sometimes we don't need to read a whole book to get the background information we need on a topic. Instead, when you need to get the gist of something, it's a time-saving approach to look for a concise, summative information source like Wikipedia to get an overview of a topic. Feel free to browse Wikipedia as a starting point, but it should be used only as a place to begin forming your thoughts. Although handy, Wikipedia is typically not considered "academic" and would not stand up as an authoritative source in a college research paper.
Library encyclopedias are another great place to find authoritative sources that provide useful background information on a topic. They can also be a great place to explore potential topics for a research paper. Encyclopedias are located on the second floor of the library. There are also many electronic encyclopedias available through the library databases. Check them out in our Research Databases under the heading "General Reference."
In this module, you will learn to:
Use this worksheet to brainstorm a list of words (or phrases) that come to mind when you think about a certain topic for your research paper.
When you're getting started on a new project, there are many different types of places you can look for background information about a topic.
Types of sources for background information include the following:
Strategies for background searching
Searching within Wikipedia and encyclopedias is simple, but like any research, sometimes it helps to use a few strategies more effective than tossing a few terms into a search box.