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How do I: Do Background Reading

This guide covers Information, Media, and Digital Literacy concepts and Digital Citizenship for Gr. 9-12 students, as well as teacher and parents.

Background Reading

Background information can help you prepare for further research by explaining all the issues related to your topic, especially when you're investigating a field that's unfamiliar to you. Tips:

  • Check for background information in: dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias.
  • Look for facts in: statistical guides, almanacs, biographical sources, or handbooks.
  • Collect keywords or important terms, concepts and author names to use when searching databases.
  • Start thinking in broad terms, then narrow down your topic. 
  • Look at bibliographies to guide you to other sources of information (books, articles, etc.)

Source: MIT Libraries, Background Information and Facts.

Why do Background Reading?

Background reading provides you with an overview of a topic.  Begin your research by doing background reading - this will help you discover the scope of your subject.  If the your initial topic appears very large may wish to narrow your research to a specific issue.  Alternatively, if there appears to be little information on your initial topic, you may wish to broaden your research. 

Use your background reading to identify keywords for your search.  

What's next?