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Biology: Background Information

Background Information

Background information on a topic can help you decide if it is a good research area for your project or assignment. Even experienced researchers will choose to start with background information when working in an area that is new to them.

Typical sources of background information are encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. Review articles (see section below) can also prove very useful.

Review articles are a great way to get an overview of a topic. They generally provide a summary of the state of the art in a research area, and their references provide excellent lists of relevant articles. All of the databases listed under the Articles & Databases tab provide options to limit search results to review articles.

  • In Medline, look for the Limits options under the Search box, and select Review Articles.
  • In PubMed, enter a search, and then from the results page, use the filter options on the left. Look for ArticleTypes and select Review.

There are also journals in which many or all of the articles are review articles.  In Journal Finder use the Journal Title and Begins With options in Quick Search and look for Annual Review ofCurrent Opinion inNature Reviews, and Trends in.

Background Information in the Library Catalog

Search for background information in the library catalog
You can search the library catalog to find many more reference sources such as specialized encyclopedias. Perform a keyword search for your topic and add one of the words below.

  • Encyclopedia
  • Dictionary
  • Handbook
  • Guide
  • Atlas