What Is Background Information: Everything You Need to Know to Do It Right
Every research paper should include a section explaining why you approached this subject and what aspect of the topic you focus on. This section is the so-called background of your paper – a broader context within which you position your arguments and analysis.
Still, many inexperienced students face questions like, “What is the background information? How do I develop the background section competently and professionally?”
We’ve decided to help you out and provide guidance on all steps of the background writing process. In this article, we’ll provide you with:
- A workable background paper example.
- Explanations of how to compose a background paragraph.
- An in-depth overview of what a background for a paper is and how to develop it.
- Instructions on writing the background and significance chapter for larger academic works.
Stay tuned and read on to develop an effective research paper that will surely impress your supervisor.
Table of Contents
How to Write Background Information
So, what is background information, and how to present it clearly and logically so that your audience grasps the subject well?
A study background is a part of your introduction in which you will explain what topic you’re examining, what place it takes within the broader area of research, what is known about it, and what is yet to be explained and researched.
To achieve the purpose of this section in a research paper, you need to discuss the historical information about your subject, mention what is known about its primary variables, processes, and relationships, and explain what scholars point out as interesting gaps today.
Let’s consider an example. Suppose you want to study how students’ exposure to child abuse affects their academic performance at school. In that case, you first need to present a socio-demographic profile of academic attainment, underline the problem of student underachievement at school, and outline the major factors contributing to under-achievement and dropouts, including child abuse.
After that, you should give relevant statistics on child abuse globally and in the country you’re researching, pointing out the adverse effects of abuse on the child’s later life. This background is enough to proceed to your topic, where you will explain that the link between abuse and underachievement is mostly under-researched and poorly explained.
Thesis Background Explained
What is background information, and where to place it in the research paper? In a nutshell, it should be the first section of your academic document preceding the formulation of your problem statement and the purpose of a research paper. Thus, when you compose the thesis of your background section, you should focus on the key subject of your inquiry. Continuing with the example we discussed above, we would suggest a thesis as follows:
“Thousands of children are exposed to child abuse, which causes long-lasting physical and psychological effects on them, including low self-esteem and inability to study well. Because of the common neglect to the relationship between abuse and underachievement, a huge percentage of students lose essential educational opportunities and fail to build careers and stay economically independent in later lives. Thus, the present study attempts to expose the relationship between the discussed variables and develop workable recommendations to support abuse victims in their educational efforts.”
What Is a Background Section of a Research Paper
The background section is typically marked as such in longer papers. Yet, if the assignment is short, you should include the background section in the introductory paragraph. Here, you should talk about the subject of your assignment in general.
For example, you can identify some key statistics to outline the magnitude of the problem or talk about seminal research in the area to show what was and wasn’t researched. It’s also helpful to include main theories and concepts that you will explore or that explain and inform your subject. Keep in mind that this section should spark the reader’s interest and explain the basics of your topic.
Steps to Writing Background Information
To compose a viable background section, you should first answer the following questions:
- What do I know about the subject in broader terms, i.e., what academic discipline does it belong to, what are the major facts and arguments of authoritative people on it?
- What is known and not known on m topic, i.e., what are the well-known gaps that nobody has addressed yet?
- How does my research paper address those gaps, and what academic/practical value can my findings bring?
- What is my reasoning for choosing this topic (i.e., the rationale for the study), and what suggestions do I have about it?
Main Do’s & Don’ts
Now that we’re familiar with the background section’s ins and outs, it’s time to examine what common mistakes students make in the process of writing this part. Besides, we uncover the pro tips for enhancing your section and improving its impact on the audience.
- Students often state the background too briefly, in a couple of sentences, or write lengthy sections occupying a significant portion of their papers.
- The worst mistake is to be ambiguous and pose fuzzy claims in the background, thus confusing the readers about the overall subject of your inquiry.
- Never go off-topic in the background section, as your audience should understand the subject you’re exploring. No unrelated information should be used in this part (or elsewhere).
- Avoid jumping from one subject to another one. Consistency and logic in your arguments make your text readable and understandable.
- Don’t speak about the subject in a way that laypersons won’t understand. The meaning of background is precisely to inform the readers about the subject in simple words and enhance their further interpretation of information.
- Don’t present any analysis or interpretations in this section. It serves to set the context for your analysis that will follow in the body of the paper.
- Avoid a limited scope of the topic’s presentation, as the readers should embrace the subject well before proceeding to your analysis.
- Never submit the assignment to your tutor or publishing organization without checking the formatting requirements. Such guidelines usually contain information about how you should write and format the background. If you violate those instructions, the paper will be rejected.
By avoiding these mistakes, you’re sure to arrive at a much better background section with logical information. This may be achieved if you follow the pro tips from our experts outlined below.
- The core function of your background is to present your topic in context, so you should do everything possible to explain your topic’s significance and relevance in the background section.
- Mention all significant developments and findings on your subject to give credit to the achievements that have already been made. At the same time, this presentation will set an excellent basis for a transition to gaps in research.
- After you’ve presented the achievements, make a logical transition to missing data and gaps in the present-day research on your subject to build the case for your research paper.
- Present all data chronologically to show how your discipline/subject progressed in time, what was unknown, how it was examined, and what’s next for research in your area.
- Make sure you talk about your academic contribution explicitly. This section will emphasize the value of your study and will serve as a good rationale for writing it.
Research Background Example
Now, to make sure that you understand the whole task and perform it ideally for any future assignment, we’ve prepared a handy example of a background of the study in a research paper for your guidance. Take it as a loose set of provisions that you can easily apply to various topics and assignment types.
“Diabetes is the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the USA, with over 34 million having this diagnosis and over 7 million more living with an undiagnosed condition. The disease is getting younger year by year, with children becoming the worst-exposed population group in terms of new diabetes diagnoses. The primary cause of such disproportionate effect of diabetes on children has been identified in the combination of genetic and environmental factors. Thus, children whose parents are obese and who consume sugar-rich and fatty products at schools and at home on a daily basis are at a 5 times higher risk of getting a diabetes diagnosis in secondary school. The problem has been identified on a national level, but there is still little effort to curb fast-food selling practices in the U.S. schools. Thus, this paper is dedicated to the analysis of existing nutritional policies in public schools and presentation of recommendations for dietary adaptations for high-risk schoolers.”
Have More Questions?
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