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Jessie Ball duPont Library

LibGuide Redesign Prototype

Gather Background Information

woman standing on a long road looking at a mapWhen starting a trip, you need an idea of what's out there and where you want to go. We call the first stage of the research process "background research" and it starts by figuring out what information is out there and what you want to find out.

  • You can start with Wikipedia. You won't use Wikipedia as a source in a paper or project, but the online encyclopedia gives a helpful overview of many different topics. 
  • Look at Credo. This database pulls together hundreds of reference texts and is easily searchable. Watch the video below to find out more.
  • Do a quick search for your topic in TigerSearch to see what kinds of things the library has in this area. Play around with different keywords and try limiting to different types of media (newspapers, scholarly articles, or books).

The GOAL of this step is to get an idea of what is out there, to gather key terms, and to get ready to develop your topic.

Start Your Research

Searching on Google will often pull up related articles on Wikipedia. Once you get to a helpful Wikipedia article, look through the outline and notice the different areas.

  • How is information divided?
  • Can you use the categories in the article as keywords in your search? 
  • If you're looking at an article on a particular civilization or people group, are there particular regions or time periods that are important? Are there other names for this group that you can use in searching?
  • What links and keywords look helpful? Take notes for later!

Remember, not everything on Wikipedia will be helpful or even true! At this point, you're gathering general information that you can use to find sources. Don't use Wikipedia as a source in your project.

This gif shows the Wikipedia entry for "Fula peoples," highlighting the Contents categories and demonstrating how you can examine related pages by hovering over highlighted words in the text.

TigerSearch looks through almost all of our library holdings. Use this search to figure out what kind of sources different keywords and phrases pull out. On the results page, you can also limit to source type (for example, newspapers) or limit to a certain time period.

Other Reference Sources