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Background Research Strategies

Doing background research will help you learn about your topic, make decisions about issues you want to explore in your research, and allow you to develop topic-specific vocabulary you can use as you search in databases. While background research can feel like an extra step, it will ultimately save you time and frustration! Try these strategies as you begin a research project. 

Choosing a Topic

  • Browse subject-specific magazines or trade journals (listed below) to see what professionals in your field are discussing.
  • Browse newspapers (listed below) to learn about current events related to your major. 
  • Use the databases on the left side of this page to browse articles related to broad topics or academic disciplines.
  • Brainstorm issues you are interested in or would like to know more about.
  • Do an online search for a topic of interest and read more about it.

Developing Keywords

  • Start with one article you find about your topic using the publications or databases listed on this page, or a general online search. Scan the article and identify a few terms that seem important. Ask yourself:
    • Which terms are mentioned several times?
    • Which terms identify people or groups involved in the topic?
    • Are there locations, events, or dates that seem important?
    • Are there terms that define problems related to your topic? Impacts your topic has on people or systems? Potential solutions to problems? 
  • If you are unfamiliar with new terms, look them up using an online search or Credo Reference. 
  • The process of developing keywords is ongoing in a research process. You will learn and understand new terms related to your topic as you read more. When you find new articles through database searches, you can apply the same questions above to develop new keywords.

Exploring Topics through Publications

When you are beginning to choose a topic related to your major, exploring newspapers cover current events, subject-specific magazines, or trade publications can help you learn about issues being discussed by professionals in your field. Choose your major or area of interest from the list below and browse recent publications. 

Current Events

Business, Accounting, Economics


Trade Publications

Science, Technology, Engineering