BACKGROUND ON ANY SUBJECT
When you’re doing research or looking for information on a
particular subject, it’s a lot like a detective checking all his
possible clues. The important thing is knowing who and where your
In almost all instances, your first move should be to your
encyclopedia. if you don’t have an up-to-date set, there’s always
your public library.
Most of the time, and encyclopedia will give you at least the
general facts about your subject. You may have to check other
sources for more detailed information.
Thus, your next move should be books that have been written on
the subject. The subject and title sections of the card catalog
or the bound volumes of computer printouts in most public
libraries will give you plenty of listings.
After you’ve selected a number of books for background
information, check the magazines either directly related to your
subject, or those carrying articles on the subject. Most of the
time, you’ll find that magazines will provide you with more
up-to-date timely information than books.
To check out information on your subject in magazines, look in
the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Under subject and
author headings, the complete collection of this guide will list
articles printed in magazines since the turn of the century. The
Suggestions For Use section will instruct you on how to read the
codes under each heading. If you can’t find your subject listed,
think of similar subjects that might be related.
If your subject is part of a particular field of study, there may
be a special index that will help you. Among these special
indexes, you’ll find: Art Index, Business Periodicals Index,
Consumers Index, Education Index, Humanities Index, Social
Science Index, Biological and Agricultural Index, and Applies
Sciences and Technology Index. You’ll even find a Popular
Periodicals Index which lists articles that have appeared in
currently popular magazines.
You’ll also find that most newspapers are veritable goldmines of
reference material. Most of the big city newspapers have
computerized indexes. Several of the special national newspapers
such as Wall Street Journal also have reference indexes.
Without a doubt, the New York Times Index is the most complete.
In these newspaper indexes, subjects and people are listed
alphabetically with the date, page number, and usually with the
number of columns devoted to that particular story. About all you
have to do to avail yourself of this information is to stop by
the newspaper office, tell them the kind of information you’re
looking for, and ask their help in locating it within their
FACTS ON FILE: is a world news digest that’s found at most public
libraries. This is a weekly publication that’s broken down into
four categories; World Affairs, U.S Affairs, Other Nations, and
EDITORIALS ON FILE: is a similar service that comes out twice
each month. It is a survey of newspaper editorials than span a
wide range of subjects.
If you want to known about business trends, you should ask for
and look at the Moody’s reports. These cover banking and finance,
industry and public utilities.
Most large libraries also keep pamphlet files for brochures from
various information services and government agencies. Be sure to
ask about these.
Whenever you have a question or want more information on a
subject, always check first in the material that has been written
about it. Public libraries and newspapers are free, and will
definitely point you in the right direction even if you don’t
know much about sources.
One of the best sources of information is people. Ask around and
more often than not, you’ll find someone right in your own area
who is well versed on your subject. An introductory phone call
and an explanation as why you’re researching the subject will
almost always lead you to many people who’ll be glad to talk with
Interviewing and talking with people will give you the chance to
ask questions and hear specific explanations about details that
may not be fully covered in a book, newspaper or other
Researching and gathering information on a particular subject can
be fun, exciting, and very informative. It will never be dull or
boring. The important thing is to search out all the available
sources, and then to take advantage of them. From there, you’ll
find it’s very much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together; the
closer you get to completing the picture, the more excited you
Many people find that when they begin a research project on a
specific subject, they quickly uncover so many interesting
related subjects that it’s hard to confine their enthusiasm to
just the one subject. This is what learning is all about,
regardless of the use you eventually make of the informative you
gather. The more you learn, the more you want to learn.
Curiosity about all things, and good, basic research are the
prime requisites for any successful writer. To have read about or
experienced only a few aspects of a given subject won’t interest
very many people. What the people want is a thorough discussion
of the subject from as many different points of view as possible.
This, of course, requires research, and to do research, you have
to know where to find the material you want.
Hopefully, we’ve “turned you own” with the idea that the
information you’re interested in is available and virtually at
your fingertips. All it takes is just a bit of effort on your
part to avail yourself of it. Just remember, whatever has been
thought of or dreamed of by man since the reasonable amount of