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El Paso Community College
Library Research Guides

ENGL 1302 - Instructor Lucille Dominguez: Find Background Information

Guide to library resources for researching information on various topics and literature. Includes helpful links to MLA citation rules and examples.

What is Background Information?

When you have a topic that you do not know much about, you should find out more about it before you begin your assignment.  This is called finding "background information."

Background information is just finding out the key facts about your topic. 

Facts that may include:

  • Definition
  • Dates
  • History of the topic
  • Names
  • Important events
  • Keywords that can be used to find more information

These facts will help you get a basic understanding of your topic and will help guide you to find the resources you need for your assignment.

Where Can I Find Background Information?

There are many sources you can use to find background information on your topic.

Depending on your topic, these are some sources that might be helpful:

  • Textbook
  • General Encyclopedia
    •  An encyclopedia that is good for all topics including science, countries, people, historical events, and more...
    • Examples: World Book Encyclopedia
  • Specialized Encyclopedias
    •  An encyclopedia that is focused on a specific subject, time period, culture, or event and provides more in depth information about the different topics they cover
      • Examples: Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine; Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance; Encyclopedia of Forensic Science
  • General Dictionary
    • A dictionary that provides brief definitions for all words.
      • Examples: Webster's New World College Dictionary
  • Specialized Dictionaries
    • Dictionaries that provide more in-depth definitions for words related to a specific subject.  May also include pictures, illustrations, and other helpful tools related to subject areas.
      • Examples:  Black's Law Dictionary; Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary; Dictionary of Literary Characters
  • Controversial Issue Databases   
    • These databases are found on the library homepage under Online Dataabases.  Provides basic information about various controversial issues and includes viewpoints from both sides of the issues.
      • Examples:  Opposing Viewpoints, Credo Reference


Subject Guide

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Becky Perales
Subjects: Health Sciences
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