Jessup Playbooks Logo

How do I write an academic research paper?

A step-by-step playbook to the research and writing process. Modified with permission from Johnson & Wales University, Denver.

Sources of Background Information

Background information can be found in: info icon

Q: How can I use Wikipedia for background information?

A: Very carefully. Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia that at present suffers from weak authority, as there isn't an editorial board to check for quality (which lowers reliability). Further, even though the authors of entries mean well, some of them are using sources that may be erroneous, shallow, not evidence-based, or outdated.  Avoid looking like a fool by exercising extra caution around Wikipedia.


Purpose of Background Research

Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research:

  • Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it.
  • Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, etc.
  • Can help refine your topic.
  • Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information.