Skip to Main Content

CGS Team A: Spring 2023

Finding Background Information

Background information on the topic of your group project can help you focus and refine your research. It can provide you with a big picture context within which you can place your own work. It can provide information from reliable sources that provides a framework for readers of the report that your group produces.

This page of the guide includes:

  • A database called CQ Researcher which provides overviews of many current and controversial topics. It's an excellent starting point, providing an overview of the topic, historical background, current situation and future outlook, a chronology, maps and graphs, and a bibliography of additional sources.
  • Information on finding specialized subject encyclopedias and other reference sources.
  • Tips for using books and scholarly dissertations and theses for background information.

As with all aspects of the research process, you can always ask for help in finding background information on your topic.

Developing your research topic: the following handout contains a series of prompts to help you think through your topic and provide some direction in terms of the stakeholders, disciplines, and scholarly conversations around your topic. It is intended to help you find directions for your research and devise keywords for searching. 

CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher Logo

Encyclopedias & Reference Sources

Encyclopedia cover Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards  Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare 

Subject encyclopedias are more specific than general encyclopedias and will provide more precise background information. Subject encyclopedias and other reference source are listed in many of our research guides, often under a page called "Background Information." Many, though not all, are online.

You can also find them by performing a simple keyword search BU Libraries Search. For example, to find an encyclopedia about the environment, you would type environment AND encyclopedia in the search box. Other types of reference books to search for in combination with a subject include "handbook" and "dictionary". After doing your research, select "Available Online" to filter the results to online sources.

Books & Dissertations as Background Information

Books and scholarly dissertations and theses can provide much more that background information. But the introduction or first chapter of a book or the introduction to a dissertation or thesis, which often set the stage for the more detailed examination of a topic that follows, can often provide good background context on the topic.

Use BU Libraries Search to find books and ebooks on a topic. (The Books/ebooks filter on the right side of the search results lets you limit your search to this type of material. Use the Available Online filter to limit the results to ebooks. Use the database ProQuest Dissertations & Theses to find works like these by graduate and Ph.D. students.

Head, African Studies Library

Profile Photo
Beth Restrick
African Studies Library
6th floor, Mugar Memorial Library

Mon-Fri, 9am- 5pm
Subjects: African Studies