ENGL 235 Introduction to Technical Communication (Wilber)

Writing a Proposal for Specific Audiences - for students in Ari Wilber's 235

Find the Basics in Reference Sources

Finding Background Info

Use the following online reference databases to find background information on your topic. 

What should you look for?

Try your specific topic. Also, think about the larger context.

For example, if you're writing a proposal for the adoption of low-cost and free textbooks, you might want to find background info on student debt, the real price of college with textbooks, barriers to completion, the cost of living, the textbook publishing industry, etc. 

Also keep in mind, you don't have to find information solely about Green River College. Sources on community colleges and community college students may provide the context and information you need.

  • Note: if one approach doesn't work, try another. Research takes persistence! 
Sample 1: GVRL

Sample search of "student debt" 

GVRL: "Student debt"

This search returned 23 articles, including a few from an encyclopedia I discovered called The College Affordability Crisis.. 

Sample 2: CQ Researcher

As shown in the image below:

  • Current reports are well organized into section
  • To gather facts for this project, focus primarily on: The Introduction and Overview and Current Situation.
  • You may read other sections for a more complete picture of the issue.
  • You could read the Pro/Con section for opinions
  • Be sure to check the date of your reports. This collection goes waaaay back.  

(click on image to enlarge)

CQ research result page highlighting features/sections of article

Why Use Reference?

Why Use Reference Sources?

Reference sources, such as academic subject encyclopedias, can be a great starting place for researching a topic, though be aware that reference books are unlikely to cover local issues and because they take time to publish, they may be a few years old.

Read reference for:

  • background knowledge - the who, what, when, where, why, how's of a topic
  • terminology common to that field
  • an overview of the history and context of a subject or issues.
  • Longer articles may present debates without taking a stand on them
  • leads to more information
  • reliable information. Unlike Wikipedia, you can see the academic authority of the author of the articles.

A reference collection is a set of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other items that provide core factual information on a topic.