After coming up with a topic that personally matters to you, the next step is to gather some background information about your topic. You don’t want or need anything too specific just yet; contextual and background information is the stuff you’re after, especially if you haven’t come up with a particular perspective from which to approach your topic. The important thing is to find sources that can deliver:
An overview of the topic
Different definitions or perspectives of the topic
A summary of the significant parts of the topic
Names of people who are considered experts or authorities of the topic
A timeline of important dates, events, and players
A lexicon and topic-specific terms that can be used later for database searches
Reliable bibliographies that can lead to additional research materials.
In other words, you need to locate contextual and background information that can help you learn more about your topic and where you want to go in your research.
An academically safer alternative to Wikipedia. A great general encyclopedia.
Using the Web?
The Web is a source for background information also, but use it with care! There are ways to limit your searches to particular types of organizations, such as professional associations, special interest groups, government and education.
In a Google search you can use your topic description and a shortcut to limit your searches to non-profit organizations by entering your topic keywords and "site:.org" For example:
substance abuse, counseling, site:.org
Government sites would be, "site:.gov"
Educational sites, "site:.edu"
You still need to investigate each Web site to ensure it comes from a reputable source and to recognize any biases the organization may have.
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