Inside:  Background research is necessary so you know what knowledge is already known about your topic.  It also provides your reasons for doing an experiment on this topic.  You will also let the reader know what knowledge gaps your experiment hopes to fill.

What is Background Research?

Background research is a necessary step in any kind of research and it is the first step in the scientific method.  You need to know what is known about your research question before you begin.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. - Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Share on X

Any experiments and research already done are important in understanding your topic.  Having that information helps you to add to what is known and it is helpful when designing your experiment.  Background research can also help you avoid the pitfalls other researchers have dealt with.  It helps you run a more successful experiment.  You will be better able to interpret your results.  As well, it will be easier to draw conclusions from those results when you understand what is already known about your topic.

When I completed my fourth year thesis in university, I needed to complete background research before I designed my hypothesis and method.  Masters students and researchers alike must complete the background research to tell them what has been done and how their project can further what is understood about the topic.

energy from a carrot

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Finding Material for your Research

High school science fair projects usually ask for a section on background research.  There are a variety of sources to find information about your research question and similar experiments done on your topic.

  • school library including nonfiction library books or scientific magazines such as National Geographic Kids.
  • internet searches using Google Scholar or sites from reputable scientific organizations and schools
  • visits to science centers
  • visits to university libraries
  • if possible, interviewing a working scientist who has done research on similar research questions is very valuable

there are lots of sources for completing background research

What to Include in your Background Research

The following is an acceptable format for presenting your background research:

  • background information should be presented at the beginning of your report
  • include all research that you collect before designing your experiment
    • if you are conducting an experiment on plant growth you would include information about the process of photosynthesis, nutrients and raw materials required and why it is important to the plant; you could included biographical information on scientists who have provided essential information on plant growth
  • DO NOT include anything about your experimental design
  • DO NOT give the expected result of your experiment
  • include the need for your experiment…what will your experiment contribute to the topic?….what research gap does it fill?
  • include a purpose statement that lets readers know why you chose this particular research question and why it is scientifically significant

When you are writing your background research, use third person.  No I’s or You’s are acceptable.  Use formal writing and also avoid using contractions.  Inform the reader all about the topic of your research question,  Let the reader know why you chose to do an experiment on this topic.  Finally, let them know what your experiment will contribute to the body of scientific knowledge about your topic.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Following the scientific method is an acceptable means of doing experiments.  Background research is the first step of this method.  You find out what is already known about a topic.  Then you design an experiment that will add to what is already known.  Hopefully, you can fill in some knowledge gaps with your chosen design.