Gathering background information, getting a general overview, and building context for your topic are some of the first steps to doing research. You may also pick up related terms, concepts, and synonyms you can use in your searching.
Some good places to look for background information are:
Congressional Research Service reports are not freely accessible from the government. However, luckily there are those out there who have made them available online:
The following databases focus on current issues and trends in various disciplines. They usually provide information such as current situation of the topic, chronology, and opposing viewpoints. They are helpful when beginning to research a topic that you are not familiar with or if you want to know more about what both sides are saying. Sometimes, the articles are on broad topics, but may still be helpfult in gaining context regarding issues.
In-depth, unbiased coverage of health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, economy, and global affairs. Reports include an introductory overview; background and chronology on the topic; an assessment of the current situation; tables and maps; pro/con statements from representatives of opposing positions; and bibliographies of key sources.
Current social issues presented in topic pages with a variety of data on differing points of view.
Multiple sides of current issues, such as Iraq or stem cell research, for debates and position papers. Each topic features an overview/objective background , point (argument) and counterpoint (opposing argument). Contains leading political magazines from both sides of the aisle, newspapers, radio & TV news transcripts, primary source documents (such as testimonies to congress) & reference books. Includes "How to" section for writing.
A collection of onine reference material that covers sociology, social work, multicultural and gender studies,political science, psychology, anthropology, criminal justice, health & medicine. Main page allows for searching across all titles and subjects in the collection.
Alkek reference source for ideas on keywords and background information. Has images and concept map too. See the tutorial below and more info about Credo Reference below.