Background Information (© Bulat /
Background Information (© Bulat /

Background information refers to the details that identify and describe the significance and historical value of a selected topic and provides references to literature that supports the topic. It is a vital element, as it provides relevant, factual details that are related to a specific topic.

Background information refers to any information that a researcher gathers and needs in order to increase his or her understanding and awareness of a selected topic that he or she is attempting to explain. An author inserts this information into a piece of writing soon after the attention grabber (also known as the “hook”) has been composed; the reason being that the attention grabber must be linked to relevant information in order to make the piece of literature valuable.

The “hook” and the background information are connected via a transitional word or phrase. In a short essay, the background information that supports the topic would typically be between three and five sentences long. In a longer piece of writing, the background information can be longer; around 10 sentences or up to a complete paragraph. However, since the goal of background information is to inform, the length in terms of sentences, should be as long as is necessary to fully support a topic and educate those who will be reading the composition.

Background Information: Types

There are various types of background information. In fact, the different types of background information are as varied as the different types of writing. Some of the most common types of background information include:

  • Defining background information. This type of background information aims to help the readers of an essay better understand the definition of a specific topic. It also helps readers understand how a specific topic is different from other topics that are similar in nature.
  • Descriptive background information. This type of information usually focuses on engaging the five senses in order to help the readers of an essay better relate to topic at hand.
  • Classifying background information. As the name suggests, this type of background information aims to inform readers about a topic, as well as how the topic is classified, and whether or not there are any derivations of the topic.
  • Process background information. With process background information, an introduction to the topic of an essay is provided and explains what type of process was used in order to achieve a specific goal.
  • Persuasive background information. Authors provide information about a specific question through persuasive background information. The goal of this form of information is to persuade readers.
  • Argumentative background information. An author will provide information that informs readers about a topic, as well as any arguments that support and/or oppose any arguments related to a topic.

Details Background Information Provides

After selecting a topic, an author should find sources that provide background information that relates to the subject or topic that he or she is writing about. Locating background information at the start of research is particularly important if the author isn’t familiar with the topic. Details that background information provides can include:

  • A definition of the topic at-hand
  • An introduction to any pertinent issues
  • A broad overview of the topic
  • The names and credentials of any individuals who are considered authorities on the topic at-hand

Where to Locate Background Information

There are several viable sources that can be used to locate relevant background information. Some of the most common locations where background information can be secured include the following:

  • Encyclopedias. Both print and electronic encyclopedias are a useful resource for securing background information. Encyclopedias are directories of sorts that explain the most important points about a topic.
  • Journals. Academic and other scholarly journals are also excellent sources of background information. Journals provided detailed information about a topic, including studies, findings, and other pertinent information.
  • Newspapers. Some newspapers can also be a valuable source for collecting background information. It’s important to select a reputable newspaper that isn’t biased and rather writes on the facts. These types of newspapers include articles that highlight vital facts.
  • Dictionaries. Another valuable source for obtaining background information, dictionaries provide information that can be used to define technical terms that an author may not be familiar with, as well as information that is considered practical.
  • The Internet. One of the easiest ways to secure background information is via the Internet. There are ample sources available on the Internet, including scholarly and peer-reviewed journals, authoritative newspaper articles and encyclopedias, and more.

The Purpose of Background Information

The goal of background information is to make readers of a piece of literature better understand a topic that is going to be discussed. It makes readers more aware of a topic so that that they can better understand it.


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