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Virtual Library Orientation Archive

An orientation to FCC's library resources via a virtual platform

Why is this important?

Why even bother with this step? Why not just write what you already know, and fill in what you don't with whatever is convenient - like your textbook, or whatever? Well - you should use background information to better understand your topic, because:

  • Better understanding will lead to better research.
  • Better research will lead to better writing.
  • Better writing will lead to a better grade.

Background will serve as the foundation upon which you build the rest of your research project. A solid understanding of background will help you create a more solid research project, whereas a flimsy understanding of background will result in a weaker research project.

What Is Background and Why do we Use it?

Any research project you work on will be about something, or in other words, you are going to have a topic. In order to write about your topic in a lucid and coherent manner, you are going to need the background of your topic. Background information consists of the relevant facts, terminology, and contexts of your topic. It is the kind of information you would find in an encyclopedia 

Let's say that you were going to write a research paper about school violence and ways to address school violence. What do you need to know in order to write about school violence coherently? You made need to know:

  • the dates and specifics of famous incidents of school violence
  • the history of state and federal policy approaches for addressing school violence
  • various theories for why school violence is a phenomena

Not only do you need to know the above, but you will need to point your audience to an authoritative source that states that information should you use it in your paper - that is, you will need to cite the sources you use in your paper. 


How to use it

In college writing, we use background resources for:

  • Establishing the basic facts of a topic
    In order to write clearly and effectively about your topic you should research the background of your topic using library resources. While this may seem obvious for topics with which you are unfamiliar, as you cannot write about what you do not know about, this remains true for topics that you feel you know a lot about - or topics for which you have a strong opinion. 
  • Providing critical context and history for a topic 
    College writing often addresses complicated issues and difficult questions. Understanding the context of what makes an issue complicated will make navigating the topic in a fair manner that much easier. Knowing the history of an issue and its attendant difficulties will likewise make your particular insights and solutions to the topic more compelling.
  • Defining core concepts and ideas for a topic
    Specialized knowledge will have a specialized vocabulary associated with it. Not only do you need to know what the key terminology around an issue is, but you will also need to be able to define that terminology for your audience if you cannot reasonably expect your professor and your fellow students to be familiar with your topic.

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