- Start the conversation by asking students where they go for background on a topic. Their answers will probably include Google and Wikipedia.
- Background research for a research paper is like the background research they do before traveling to somewhere they’ve never been before. Let’s say they’re going to Iceland. They might wonder what kinds of things there are to do there and what kinds of food they should try. Have them search Wikipedia.
- Show how limited the Wikipedia articles are on Icelandic cuisine and tourism. Wikipedia has flagged it as needing reliable sources to be based on. Many references are in Icelandic. But it can give you terms to search elsewhere.
- Then have them search Gale Virtual Reference Library for Icelandic food and they’ll find the entry from the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. [Koh, Desiree. "Iceland." Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, edited by Ken Albala, vol. 4: Europe, Greenwood, 2011, pp. 191-196. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX1513300152/GVRL?u=cuny_laguardia&sid=GVRL&xid=fa966ddd. Accessed 1 Mar. 2018.] It tells them some of the dishes they can try, but not what restaurants are the best for each dish or whether Icelandic foods like shark, whale and puffin are hunted on a sustainable basis for not just the island’s population, but also the large numbers of tourists. That specific type of research is like the research you do after you do background reading for more general familiarity.
So background research happens at or near the beginning of their research paper journey.
[img source: A typical Þorramatur assortment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_cuisine#/media/File:Thorramatur.jpg]