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GO111 Maisel: Intro to American Government and Politics: Background

This stage of the research process

Background helps you narrow from a vague topic of interest to a more focused research question. You use background sources to help you fill in your own gaps in prior knowledge and to point you towards articles you can use to support your argument.

Sources for Background Information

Encyclopedias, Bibliographies and Handbooks


Background Information Tips

Break your question into pieces. If, for example, you are looking at the topic of whether members of the House of Representatives choose committee assignments to increase their chances of reelection, you would be looking for background information on House committees and House reelection, not just sources that discuss the two together.

Don't be afraid to modify your question as you learn more about the topic.

Follow information to its source- the references in background information are great for finding original research on your topic.

Background sources are also important for helping you hone your political science vocabulary- note down key terms (eg. incumbency advantage) that you'll be able to use to search the academic literature.


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