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Honors Biology Research Paper: Background, Keywords & Questions

Check for Understanding

I now have:

__ 2 to 3 articles on my topic

__ definitions and explanations to understand my topic better

__ keywords written down to search

__ questions from my initial research

Background Information: Your First Sources

Get Some Background Information:

Read one or two articles from a general encyclopedia (Britannica Online), an online database and/or an authoritative website.  Background information provides you with definitions, explanations, and terms related to the topic.  You also may find reasons to study your topic.  

Note: At this stage you really need only two or three brief articles.  Don't print out ten 20-page articles.  You may not need them and it will overwhelm you!  Try these:

 When using Science Reference Center, use Advanced Search. Click in the boxes:  Find all of my search terms AND Also search within the full text of the articles.

About finding an authoritative website:  Find a website which follows these guidelines:

1. Authority: There is an author or reputable organization on the website (i.e. The Environmental Protection Agency).
2. Currency: There is a date on the page that the information was posted and it's recent.
3. Coverage: It's longer than a brief summary and provides information that you can use.
4. Objectivity:  It's not a blog or opinion piece.  The page has facts and statistics.  Check the ads and find out if the creators of the site have a prejudice against or a bias towards a point of view.


From your background reading and topic development, write down keywordsWrite down some keywords.  These are the important words that you will search later.  They define your topic and are basic facts, concepts, terms, events, and/or people.  Start a corresponding list of keywords that are related to your first keywords.


Write a few questions that explain the relevance of your topic to your experiment.  Start them with What, Where, When, Why, or How.

Your questions could be shoot off of these (adapted from the SSEP Manual):

  • Name the basic question which will be addressed by your experiment.
  • What is already known? And how does this knowledge relate to the first question?
  • What insight will be gained from the experiment?


You will use APA format to cite your sources.  This is the standard format for science.  Use to cite.  You need to register with easybib in order to use their APA formatting feature.  When you register, enter the Montytech password to get the school account.