Research Help

Online Dictionaries

Can you readily define the terms you're working with? Understanding your vocabulary will help you throughout the entire process.

Getting Started

Once you have chosen a topic, it's time to do your preliminary background research. After all, you need to know what you are getting yourself into before developing your thesis statement!

Some good questions to start your background research with are:

  • What are the significant events surrounding in my topic?
  • Who are the important people involved in my topic?
  • What are the current “hot” issues surrounding my topic?
  • Are there any primary documents about my topic?
  • Can I create a historical timeline for my topic?
  • Are there any important problems about my topic?

Getting Started: Background Information

Not sure where to start?

These REFERENCE SOURCES will help you get a general overview of your topic (look for print Reference books in the Information Commons).

Subscription resources are available to Fontbonne students, faculty, & staff. Guests are welcome to visit us at the library.

Finding Keywords

library owl

Keywords are an important tool for finding quality background information on your topic. There are several ways to go about finding your topic's keywords.

Once you have some great keywords, use them to search reference materials! Try the Fontbonne reference sources listed on this page. 

Search Tips


  • Scan articles to see if they are useful to you. Set aside the resource for further reading.
  • Use keywords in online reference materials, including databases, journals, and encyclopedias.
  • Too much information? Narrow your search by using specific keywords or adding additional keywords.
  • Not enough information? Broaden your search by using synonyms or trying a more general search. 

Take Note

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All guides licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.