Finding Background Information John B is writing a paper on the Gettysburg Address. His friend Jane B has decided to help him. Okay, time to get serious and start working on this paper about the Gettysburg Address Let’s see, how to start “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That’s Charles Dickens. Alright, different approach. Umm….. What do you actually know about the Gettysburg address? It was a speech Lincoln gave during the Civil War. What else? It was after a big battle. Or before a big battle. A battle was involved. What was the speech commemorating? What about the political implications of the speech? What was Lincoln truly saying with this speech? Those are great questions. Maybe I should start the paper with those. Dude, how are you going to write a paper about a topic when you don’t know the basics. You need some background information. Let’s head to the library. The library has many great resources to learn about any topic subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries are great places to start. And many of them are available electronically. These resources provide more than names and dates. Background information provides context for an event. This helps you as the researcher to develop better ways of understanding the topic. Once you have the proper context and understanding of your topic, you can perform better research because you now have a focus and can narrow your search to in-depth analysis. In other words, you will engage in deeper analysis and learning. That sounds like it will get me an “A”. How’s the paper coming? Great, the Gettysburg Address was a fascinating exercise in rhetoric and oratory by President Lincoln that worked on many levels. A commemoration of a battlefield, an inspiration for union victory in the war, and a call for equality and unity in America. It’s social and political impact is felt even today 150 years after the speech was given. So I guess those library resources were helpful? Now I know.