Skip to Main Content
[NJIT Library Logo]

ENGL 101/102

This handy libguide provides support and suggested resources for English Composition.

Background information

Constructing a Research Question and Exploring Your Topic


At this stage of your research, you’re exploring. What sources can help you learn more about your topic, so that you can narrow it down into a “working research question” with a clear purpose?

Use this page to learn about sources to help you gather information that you can use to write a proposal -- or help you learn more about aspects of your research as you continue to discover more about your topic.


Background information intro video

Best Bets -- Library databases for background information

Best bets -- Newspapers for background information

Check out the Library's A-Z Database list for additional newspapers as well as databases that search across thousands of newspapers.

Examples of finding background information

Example 1

if you are exploring a research question on the impact of technology on some aspect of society,  start by searching and exploring sources:

Technology and Society from the Opposing Viewpoints database. This resource gives a lot of narrower topic ideas on this very broad subject

Example 2

if you are interested in learning more about social media use and mental health, you might search Academic Search Premier to see a wide variety of newspaper, magazine and research articles such as: 

Magazine article: 

Chen, A. (2018). Social Notworking: Is Generation Smartphone Really More Prone to Unhappiness? (Cover story). Scientific American Mind, 29(2), 18–21. 

Research article: 

Cingel, D. P., Lauricella, A. R., Taylor, L. B., Stevens, H. R., Coyne, S. M., & Wartella, E. (2022). U.S. adolescents’ attitudes toward school, social connection, media use, and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: Differences as a function of gender identity and school context. PLoS ONE, 17(10), 1–17. 

Example 3

If you are looking for information on barriers to adopting self-driving cars, search for books in the NJIT Library collection. Here are some examples of print and online library books on "autonomous vehicles": 

Product development within artificial intelligence, ethics and legal risk: exemplary for same autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles: technologies, regulations and societal impacts

Autonorama: the illusory promise of high-tech driving



More strategies for finding background information

Search for books

Books can be a great source of background information. Search the NJIT Library for books on your topic -- both print and electronic. Go to the "Books" tab on the NJIT Library website.

Search for government information

The federal government is the largest publisher in the U.S. 

Append "" to a websearch to find information published by federal, state and local government agencies. The search "food waste" and on google finds background information from the USDA on this topic.

Search for organizations interested in your topic

What professional or trade organizations might have an interest in your topic? Are you writing about mental health and social media? A web search for mental health and social media organization turns up multiple organizations that are concerned with this issue.

Discussion questions

What types of background sources are your go-to sources? 

Which source or strategy that is new-to-you will you try first and why?

Why would it be important to use multiple sources of background information? 


Background information -- learn a litte more about it

Want to learn more about why background information will help you write a great paper? 

Read through Why Background Research Helps -- a one page guide from the College of Charleston Libraries. 

Watch the video How to Find Background Information from Oakton Library  -- watch until 1:23 to get a sense of how finding background information can help you to be part of a conversation on an issue, topic, reserach project, etc. 

Consult the infographic Finding Background Information from the University of Louisville. 

New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights, Newark, New Jersey 07102-1982
(973) 596-3206
Contact Us | Ask A Librarian |  Map & Directions | A to Z Site Index

Copyrighted 2024 | Robert W. Van Houten Library