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HCS531 Research Skills Guide: Conduct Background Research

Why conduct background research?

While you're analysing your topic, you might need to look for some background information. This might seem like doing more work when you could just jump straight into in-depth research, but it actually provides you with important context that can make the rest of your assignment more efficient.

Below are some tips about where to conduct and approach background research.

Where to conduct background research

Before you settle on a human services area and policy, conduct some background research on your topic. Learning more about your topic in general will strengthen your overall understanding, expose diverse points-of-view and enable you to identify areas in which to conduct more targeted research.  

There are a number of places to find background information:

Reliable websites

Government and non-profit websites such as the Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Analysis & Policy Observatory are examples of reliable websites. You could also look at statistics or census data

It's important that you evaluate the websites you observe to ensure they are reliable, informed and authoritative sources. 

News articles including reviews, feature articles and explainers.

Ensure articles and explainers are published published by credible news media like The Conversation. While you shouldn't use Wikipedia as a source in an academic paper, it can be a fairly reliable source for background information. Citations in Wikipedia articles can sometimes lead you to other good sources, especially on contemporary topics. Wikipedia can also help you identify synonyms that might be useful in additional searches. 

Encyclopedias and dictionaries

Reference resources like dictionaries and encyclopaedias can help clarify terms and concepts expressed in an assessment task. Search directly within the Library's collection of dictionaries and encyclopaedias; search in Primo Search and refine by the 'Reference entry' limiter; or use an online reference tool. 

Primo Search

Run some broad searches in Primo Search on your topic. Refine your results to 'Books' and possibly also those 'Available Online'. Books often contain an overview of a topic and can be really useful during this stage of your research. 

Background research video