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Research Toolkit: Where to Begin Your Search

Background Research

Background research helps you to develop a more effective research question, and leads you to additional keywords and search terms. Here are some places to find help with background research:

  • Your instructor is a great resource! They understand your assignment and can provide good advice about your topic and how to frame your research question.
  • Talk with a librarian. We can help at any stage of your research project.
  • Check the K Library Research Guides for resources to explore in specific disciplines. 

Resources for background info on topics:


  • Wikipedia can be helpful for background information and links to other resources.
  • Reference databases like Gale eBooks, which has reference ebooks and sources.
  • The Opposing Viewpoints database provides good background information on controversial topics. 

Where you search depends on the sources you need. Helpful starting questions:

  1. Does your assignment require you to use specific sources?
  2. Does your topic lend itself to a particular type of source?
  • Books may be the best source for some topics, particularly when you are looking for a historical overview of ideas and events. 
  • Scholarly journals may be best for other types of research, especially in the sciences and social sciences, and when you need criticism and analysis.
  • The latest news sources are best for current events and hot topics.
You want to... Where you should start...
Find books Library OneSearch
Find articles on a topic A-Z Databases, list of over 300 library databases
Search a database that covers many subjects Academic Search Complete or ProQuest Central
Find an article by title Library OneSearch
Find a journal by title Online Journals @ K
Find newspaper articles NewsBank, The New York Times, Historical Newspapers