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Senior Project: Find background information

Guide to the research process required to complete the WSA Senior Project.

Finding background information

Arizona highway sign - Britannica ImageQuestWhen you're just beginning your research it can help to find some background information on your topic.  

See the box to the right for questions you must consider at this stage.

Look below for information and a video on:

Wikipedia  - what's good and what's bad!

Go to the next section of this guide for help in finding a variety of resources:      Locate


Wikipedia is a very popular encyclopedia; it is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project.  Anyone can edit virtually any of the entries so the information in Wikipedia should be treated with caution and must always be checked for accuracy.  There are some things to keep in mind when using Wikipedia.

On the positive side:  Wikipedia can be useful for background information (which you must check in an authoritative source) and entries frequently include a bibliography which will often lead to further useful information sources.

On the negative side: The number of pages keeps growing, and the group of volunteer editors and monitors keeps shrinking, so it gets increasingly difficult  for Wikipedia to make sure all content is accurate and error-free.  The number of hoaxes posing as factual Wikipedia articles keeps increasing.  

Watch this video to get some tips on how to analyze articles in Wikipedia for their credibility.

Source:  ©2014 HistoryPeeps

Dewey, Caitlin. "The Story Behind Jar’Edo Wens, the Longest-running Hoax in 
     Wikipedia History." Washington Post [Washington, D.C.] 15 Apr. 2015: n. 
     pag. Washington Post. Web. 23 July 2015. < 

Preliminary Reading - Questions to Ask

After you decide on a topic of interest you should undertake some preliminary general reading around the issue.  Questions you must consider at this stage are:

  • What has already been written about the topic?
  • Was it easy to find sources of information?
  • Is there a range of different sources available?
  • Is there a range of views or perspectives on the topic?
  • What interesting questions have started to emerge from this reading?

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