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PSY 150 -- General Psychology

A guide to research methods in psychology and library based help with research assignments for the PSY 150 course at Central Carolina Community College.

A note on background Information

Why should you search for background information?

information iconBasic facts: The articles you read and cite in your paper will assume you already know the basic facts about your topic.  These are the people, dates, places, theories, and treatments related to it.  You need to know these facts before you read academic articles to ensure you know what the writers are talking about!

Speech bubble iconVocabulary: Academic writing in psychology may use words and terms for a topic that are different from those we use every day, or even those you find in academic writing in another subject.  By researching the background of a topic, you'll learn which terms academic writers use to discuss your topic.

Narrow your topic iconNarrowing you topic: Most students start off with a topic that's too big to cover in a five page paper.  By doing thorough background research, you can identify sub-topics that might be easier to work with.

The following Library Resources will help you find Background Information: 

Library Lingo

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Reference Source: A broad resource for basic facts and background.  They offer a good entry point to the basic information you will need to learn as you start to explore your topic.

Reference sources include, but are not limited to, Biographies, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Atlases, and Handbooks.

Who What When Where

The 4 Ws

Guide yourself through your Background Research by answering the following four questions:

people iconWho

Who are the people or groups relevant to your topic?  

Example:  If you're writing about PTSD, this might include those directly affected such as soldiers, veterans, police officers.  Or you might want to compare groups like men and women.  You might look at those inderectly affected, such as children and spouses.  Or you might want to look at how groups like the VA handle PTSD.

Magnifying glass iconWhat

What are the major concepts, theories, or treatments related to your topic?

Example:  If you're researching anger management, this might include violence and aggressive behavior, sequences of anger theory, and cognitive behavioral therapy.


calendar iconWhen

When have major events happened to affect your topic? This can include dates, eras, or even age ranges relevant to your topic.

Example:  If you're learning about false memories, you might need to know about 1973 (when research into the concept of false or implanted memories began), the 1990s (when this research began to affect outcomes of high profile court cases), or false memories in children versus adults.


globe iconWhere

Where are the places most affected by your topic? Which countries, regions, or states?  Does your topic affect urban or rural regions more?

Example:  If you're researching why people engage in extramarital affairs, you might want to look at data and cultural attitudes in countries such as the United States or Denmark; states such as California or North Carolina; regions such as the Pacific North West or the Deep South; as well as urban centers versus rural areas.


If you need some help getting started...


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Need a little extra help?

Contact your librarian. 

Or use the links below to get more in-depth help and information.