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The University of Iowa Libraries

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guides

Rhetoric: Gathering Background Information

Research Mindset Tip

light bulb

Jumping into the middle of a conversation without knowing what has been said before is not usually a wise choice. You can "read yourself into context" by exploring background information about your topic. 

Quick Tips - Gathering Background Information

Gather background Information using reference materials from your library

When people think of reference books, they often picture rows of dusty encyclopedias. Well, we have those, but a whole lot more, including searchable sets of online reference materials, such as: 

Read, think, search...Read, think, search...

search read think

When starting a research project, most people start with an online search engine (Google), and end up looking at Wikipedia articles about their topic. This is a quick and easy way to get started with research. Using these freely available online tools to purposely gather background information can lead to better searches using library tools. 

Use online search engines to discover: 

  • various facets of your topic
  • current (and past) conversations about your topic
  • who is participating in the conversations about your topic
  • the vocabulary people use to discuss your topic

TIP - Using your concept map or research notes, keep track of the variety of vocabulary you encounter, peoples' names or groups that are affiliated with the topic, and any interesting aspects of your topic that you may not have thought about before.