Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
When you’re getting started, it helps to get background information on your topic.
Background information, such a a brief introduction to your topic, can help you generate “touchpoints” that will lead you to other sources of information. Examples of these "touchpoints" fall mostly into these five categories:
Knowing the names of individuals, groups, or organizations connected to your topic will help you focus your search on information they've published.
A summary of your topic will help you understand it better. It can also provide you with key words, specialized vocabulary, and definitions, all of which will be useful for future searches.
If your topic has significant events associated with it, knowing what they are and when they happened will help you choose the best sources to consult (for example:historical databases). You can also use this information to narrow your search by date.
Sometimes places are important to a topic. For example: the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City (the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement) or Bhopal, India (the site of one of the world's worst industrial catastrophes caused by corporate negligence).
Getting background on why people are interested in your topic can help you develop an approach to your topic or help you craft an argument
Click on the picture below to watch a short, 7-minute video about finding background information
The Five Ws
For a PowerPoint version of the video, above, or a one-page graphic showing how the Five Ws make a foundation for your research, click on the links below.