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Anthropology Resources

Learn about the research process and resources for anthropology

What is background information?

stack of booksBackground information can help you learn more about your topic and develop your research question and approach.

Common examples of background information sources are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and bibliographies. You may find these sources either as individual books or ebooks by searching our library catalog, or through a library database.

Background information usually adds one or more of the following benefits to your research process:

  • introduces you to important terms or concepts,
  • points toward other works on your research topic, and
  • describes common ideas other scholars already have about the subject.

For best results, seek background information early in the research process. That way, you can use what you learn about foundational concepts to make changes to your research question or plan for next steps.

How do I find background information?

Background information sources may contain information on many topics from multiple disciplines. You're probably already familiar with one source for general background information, Wikipedia.

To find this type of background information through UH Libraries, try searching one of the resources below with keywords related to your research question.

How do I know if it's background information?

Sometimes it's difficult to determine exactly what type of information you are seeing when you're doing research. Encyclopedias and dictionaries have a reputation for being large sets of books with many volumes, or online sites with hundreds of linked pages.

However, you may find that sources of background information, even certain encyclopedias and dictionaries, don't look like that at all. 

Instead of relying on the external appearance of your sources to determine what kind of source you are using, it's helpful to know a few traits that distinguish many sources of background information from peer-reviewed, scholarly books:

  • Sections of text cover specific people, places, events, or subjects and have a narrow focus
  • Text sections have simple titles, usually only the name of the person, place, event, or subject covered
  • Entries are organized alphabetically, sometimes within thematic parts
  • Entries do not attempt to make an original argument or interpret a lot of primary sources about the subject, but instead summarize important, broad points

If you have any questions about background information, please reach out to a librarian!

Professional Associations

To learn more about the wide variety of activities and topics involved in the study of anthropology, consider visiting the website of one or more professional organization for anthropologists. These websites contain broad educational resources, information about joining the field, and updates about learning opportunities such as conferences.