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Meaning of background in English

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background noun ( PICTURE )

  • The black lettering really stands out on that orange background.
  • a white rose on a solid blue background
  • autostereogram
  • graphic arts
  • graphic novel

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

background noun ( SOUND )

  • I could hear the strains of Mozart in the background.
  • The computers were humming in the background.
  • An airplane droned in the background.
  • ear-splitting
  • mellifluously
  • melodically
  • melodiously
  • metallically
  • symphonically

background noun ( SITUATION )

  • circumstance
  • comedy of errors
  • financial affairs
  • practicality
  • situational
  • the scheme of things idiom

background noun ( FAMILY EXPERIENCE )

  • His family background predisposes him to support the Democrats.
  • Journalists were frantically researching the new prime minister's background, family , and interests .
  • Since they discovered the truth about his background, his colleagues have regarded him with suspicion .
  • She comes from an upper middle class background.
  • When the authorities inquired into his background, they found he had a criminal record .
  • anti-family
  • biologically
  • first cousin
  • kith and kin
  • relationally
  • relationship
  • batten down the hatches idiom
  • break someone in
  • bug-out bag
  • build (someone/something) up
  • get/have your ducks in a row idiom
  • gird your self idiom
  • preparation
  • roll up your sleeves idiom
  • set something up
  • set the scene/stage idiom

background | American Dictionary

Background noun ( things behind ), background noun ( experience ), background | business english, examples of background, collocations with background.

These are words often used in combination with background .

Click on a collocation to see more examples of it.

Translations of background

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on the horizon

likely to happen or exist soon

Tucking in and pigging out (Eating phrasal verbs)

Tucking in and pigging out (Eating phrasal verbs)

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  • background (PICTURE)
  • background (SOUND)
  • background (SITUATION)
  • the background
  • background (FAMILY EXPERIENCE)
  • background (THINGS BEHIND)
  • background (EXPERIENCE)
  • Business    Noun
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Background Information definition

Background Information (© Bulat /

Background Information (© Bulat /

Background information refers to the details that identify and describe the significance and historical value of a selected topic and provides references to literature that supports the topic. It is a vital element , as it provides relevant, factual details that are related to a specific topic.

Background information refers to any information that a researcher gathers and needs in order to increase his or her understanding and awareness of a selected topic that he or she is attempting to explain. An author inserts this information into a piece of writing soon after the attention grabber (also known as the “hook”) has been composed; the reason being that the attention grabber must be linked to relevant information in order to make the piece of literature valuable.

The “hook” and the background information are connected via a transitional word or phrase. In a short essay, the background information that supports the topic would typically be between three and five sentences long. In a longer piece of writing, the background information can be longer; around 10 sentences or up to a complete paragraph. However, since the goal of background information is to inform, the length in terms of sentences , should be as long as is necessary to fully support a topic and educate those who will be reading the composition.

  • Background Information: Types

There are various types of background information. In fact, the different types of background information are as varied as the different types of writing. Some of the most common types of background information include:

  • Defining background information. This type of background information aims to help the readers of an essay better understand the definition of a specific topic. It also helps readers understand how a specific topic is different from other topics that are similar in nature.
  • Descriptive background information. This type of information usually focuses on engaging the five senses in order to help the readers of an essay better relate to topic at hand.
  • Classifying background information. As the name suggests, this type of background information aims to inform readers about a topic, as well as how the topic is classified, and whether or not there are any derivations of the topic.
  • Process background information. With process background information, an introduction to the topic of an essay is provided and explains what type of process was used in order to achieve a specific goal.
  • Persuasive background information. Authors provide information about a specific question through persuasive background information. The goal of this form of information is to persuade readers.
  • Argumentative background information. An author will provide information that informs readers about a topic, as well as any arguments that support and/or oppose any arguments related to a topic.
  • Details Background Information Provides

After selecting a topic, an author should find sources that provide background information that relates to the subject or topic that he or she is writing about. Locating background information at the start of research is particularly important if the author isn’t familiar with the topic. Details that background information provides can include:

  • A definition of the topic at-hand
  • An introduction to any pertinent issues
  • A broad overview of the topic
  • The names and credentials of any individuals who are considered authorities on the topic at-hand
  • Where to Locate Background Information

There are several viable sources that can be used to locate relevant background information. Some of the most common locations where background information can be secured include the following:

  • Encyclopedias. Both print and electronic encyclopedias are a useful resource for securing background information. Encyclopedias are directories of sorts that explain the most important points about a topic.
  • Journals. Academic and other scholarly journals are also excellent sources of background information. Journals provided detailed information about a topic, including studies, findings, and other pertinent information.
  • Newspapers. Some newspapers can also be a valuable source for collecting background information. It’s important to select a reputable newspaper that isn’t biased and rather writes on the facts. These types of newspapers include articles that highlight vital facts.
  • Dictionaries. Another valuable source for obtaining background information, dictionaries provide information that can be used to define technical terms that an author may not be familiar with, as well as information that is considered practical.
  • The Internet. One of the easiest ways to secure background information is via the Internet. There are ample sources available on the Internet, including scholarly and peer-reviewed journals, authoritative newspaper articles and encyclopedias, and more.
  • The Purpose of Background Information

The goal of background information is to make readers of a piece of literature better understand a topic that is going to be discussed. It makes readers more aware of a topic so that that they can better understand it.

  • Background Information

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What is the Background of a Study and How Should it be Written?

  • 3 minute read

Table of Contents

The background of a study is one of the most important components of a research paper. The quality of the background determines whether the reader will be interested in the rest of the study. Thus, to ensure that the audience is invested in reading the entire research paper, it is important to write an appealing and effective background. So, what constitutes the background of a study, and how must it be written?

What is the background of a study?

The background of a study is the first section of the paper and establishes the context underlying the research. It contains the rationale, the key problem statement, and a brief overview of research questions that are addressed in the rest of the paper. The background forms the crux of the study because it introduces an unaware audience to the research and its importance in a clear and logical manner. At times, the background may even explore whether the study builds on or refutes findings from previous studies. Any relevant information that the readers need to know before delving into the paper should be made available to them in the background.

How is a background different from the introduction?

The introduction of your research paper is presented before the background. Let’s find out what factors differentiate the background from the introduction.

  • The introduction only contains preliminary data about the research topic and does not state the purpose of the study. On the contrary, the background clarifies the importance of the study in detail.
  • The introduction provides an overview of the research topic from a broader perspective, while the background provides a detailed understanding of the topic.
  • The introduction should end with the mention of the research questions, aims, and objectives of the study. In contrast, the background follows no such format and only provides essential context to the study.

How should one write the background of a research paper?

The length and detail presented in the background varies for different research papers, depending on the complexity and novelty of the research topic. At times, a simple background suffices, even if the study is complex. Before writing and adding details in the background, take a note of these additional points:

  • Start with a strong beginning: Begin the background by defining the research topic and then identify the target audience.
  • Cover key components: Explain all theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may feel unfamiliar to the target audience thoroughly.
  • Take note of important prerequisites: Go through the relevant literature in detail. Take notes while reading and cite the sources.
  • Maintain a balance: Make sure that the background is focused on important details, but also appeals to a broader audience.
  • Include historical data: Current issues largely originate from historical events or findings. If the research borrows information from a historical context, add relevant data in the background.
  • Explain novelty: If the research study or methodology is unique or novel, provide an explanation that helps to understand the research better.
  • Increase engagement: To make the background engaging, build a story around the central theme of the research

Avoid these mistakes while writing the background:

  • Ambiguity: Don’t be ambiguous. While writing, assume that the reader does not understand any intricate detail about your research.
  • Unrelated themes: Steer clear from topics that are not related to the key aspects of your research topic.
  • Poor organization: Do not place information without a structure. Make sure that the background reads in a chronological manner and organize the sub-sections so that it flows well.

Writing the background for a research paper should not be a daunting task. But directions to go about it can always help. At Elsevier Author Services we provide essential insights on how to write a high quality, appealing, and logically structured paper for publication, beginning with a robust background. For further queries, contact our experts now!


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What Is Background in a Research Paper?

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So you have carefully written your research paper and probably ran it through your colleagues ten to fifteen times. While there are many elements to a good research article, one of the most important elements for your readers is the background of your study. The background of your study will provide context to the information discussed throughout the research paper. Background information may include both important and relevant studies. This is particularly important if a study either supports or refutes your thesis.

In addition, the background of the study will discuss your problem statement, rationale, and research questions. It links introduction to your research topic and ensures a logical flow of ideas.  Thus, it helps readers understand your reasons for conducting the study.

Providing Background Information

The reader should be able to understand your topic and its importance. The length and detail of your background also depend on the degree to which you need to demonstrate your understanding of the topic. Paying close attention to the following questions will help you in writing the background information in your research paper:

  • Are there any theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may be unfamiliar to the target audience and will require you to provide any additional explanation?
  • Any historical data that need to be shared in order to provide context on why the current issue emerged?
  • Are there any concepts that may have been borrowed from other disciplines that may be unfamiliar to the reader and need an explanation?

Is the research study unique for which additional explanation is needed? For instance, you may have used a completely new method

What Makes the Introduction Different from the Background?

Your introduction is different from your background in a number of ways.

  • The introduction contains preliminary data about your topic that the reader will most likely read , whereas the background clarifies the importance of the paper.
  • The background of your study discusses in depth about the topic, whereas the introduction only gives an overview.
  • The introduction should end with your research questions, aims, and objectives, whereas your background should not (except in some cases where your background is integrated into your introduction). For instance, the C.A.R.S. ( Creating a Research Space ) model, created by John Swales is based on his analysis of journal articles. This model attempts to explain and describe the organizational pattern of writing the introduction in social sciences.
Related: Ready with the background and searching for more information on journal ranking? Check this infographic on the SCImago Journal Rank today!

Points to Note

Your background should begin with defining a topic and audience. It is important that you identify which topic you need to review and what your audience already knows about the topic. You should proceed by searching and researching the relevant literature. In this case, it is advisable to keep track of the search terms you used and the articles that you downloaded. It is helpful to use one of the research paper management systems such as Papers, Mendeley, Evernote, or Sente. Next, it is helpful to take notes while reading. Be careful when copying quotes verbatim and make sure to put them in quotation marks and cite the sources. In addition, you should keep your background focused but balanced enough so that it is relevant to a broader audience. Aside from these, your background should be critical, consistent, and logically structured.

Writing the background of your study should not be an overly daunting task. Many guides that can help you organize your thoughts as you write the background. The background of the study is the key to introduce your audience to your research topic and should be done with strong knowledge and thoughtful writing.

The background of a research paper typically ranges from one to two paragraphs, summarizing the relevant literature and context of the study. It should be concise, providing enough information to contextualize the research problem and justify the need for the study. Journal instructions about any word count limits should be kept in mind while deciding on the length of the final content.

The background of a research paper provides the context and relevant literature to understand the research problem, while the introduction also introduces the specific research topic, states the research objectives, and outlines the scope of the study. The background focuses on the broader context, whereas the introduction focuses on the specific research project and its objectives.

When writing the background for a study, start by providing a brief overview of the research topic and its significance in the field. Then, highlight the gaps in existing knowledge or unresolved issues that the study aims to address. Finally, summarize the key findings from relevant literature to establish the context and rationale for conducting the research, emphasizing the need and importance of the study within the broader academic landscape.

The background in a research paper is crucial as it sets the stage for the study by providing essential context and rationale. It helps readers understand the significance of the research problem and its relevance in the broader field. By presenting relevant literature and highlighting gaps, the background justifies the need for the study, building a strong foundation for the research and enhancing its credibility.

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The background of the study is the key to introduce your audience to YOUR research topic.

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Background Information

Definition of background information.

As the name suggests, background information means all information that a reader requires to increase his awareness of the topic an essay is going to explain. Background information is placed shortly after the hook or attention grabber. Both are intertwined, as the hook cannot be separated from the background information.

Both are connected with a transition word. Usually, in a five-paragraph essay, background information comprises three to five sentences . However, in a longer essay, it could be more than 10 sentences or even a full paragraph. Generally it needs to be as long as necessary to inform readers on the topic. There are as many types of background information as there are types of essay , some of which are as follows:

Types of Background Information

  • Description Type Description type of background information often describes the topic through sensory description involving all five senses: sense of touch, sense of smell, sense of sight, sense of hearing, and sense of taste. Words are used to make the reader experience any of these or all.
  • Process Type In a process type of background information, a writer provides an introduction to the topic, telling readers what process will be used to achieve a goal, or complete a task.
  • Definition Type In a definition type of background information, readers become aware of the definition of the topic, as well as how it differs from other such similar terms and words.
  • Classification / Division Type In a classification / division type of background information, readers are informed about the topic, how it is classified and divided, and what further derivations it could have. These are further explained in body paragraphs .
  • Argumentative Type In an argumentative type of background information, readers are informed about the topic, the arguments being made in support of the question about the topic ,and opposing arguments.
  • Persuasive Type A persuasive type of background information attempts to persuade the reader, by giving information about a question.

Examples of Background Information in Literature

Example #1:  politics and english language (by george orwell).

“ Now , it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language.”

This is the second paragraph of an essay by George Orwell . It clearly tells how English language has faced decline in its standard due to certain causes. It is a good background to the topic of the essay “Politics and English Language.”

Example #2: I Twitter, Therefore I am (by Peggy Orenstein)

“I came late to Twitter. I might have skipped the phenomenon altogether, but I have a book coming out this winter , and publishers, scrambling to promote 360,000- character tomes in a 140-character world, push authors to rally their “tweeps” to the cause. Leaving aside the question of whether that actually boosts sales, I felt pressure to produce. I quickly mastered the Twitterati’s unnatural self-consciousness: processing my experience instantaneously, packaging life as I lived it.”

This is the background information of a beautiful essay by Peggy Orenstein, which she wrote for The New York Times . This background information shows that she cannot stop tweeting, as it has become her second nature.

Example #3: Is Google Making Us Stupid (by Nicholas Carr)

“For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded.”

These are just a few lines of background information in the essay of Nicholas Carr. These lines clearly show that the essay is about the Internet. As the essay is quite long, background information comprises an entire paragraph.

Function of Background Information

Background information serves the purpose of making readers aware of what is going to be discussed in the essay. It makes readers conscious of the pros and cons of the topic, and readies them to explore it further. It also presents a good assessment of what is to come. In a way, it enables readers to predict what is to come next, and how it is to be presented.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Background Information

  • Purpose of Guide
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Background information identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to the existing literature. The background information should indicate the root of the problem being studied, appropriate context of the problem in relation to theory, research, and/or practice , its scope, and the extent to which previous studies have successfully investigated the problem, noting, in particular, where gaps exist that your study attempts to address.

Structure and Writing Style

Providing background information in the introduction of a research paper serves as a bridge that links the reader to the topic of your study . Precisely how long and in-depth this bridge should be is largely dependent upon how much information you think the reader will need to know in order to fully understand the topic being discussed and to appreciate why the issues you are investigating are important.

From another perspective, the length and detail of background information also depends on the degree to which you need to demonstrate to your professor how much you understand the research problem. Keep this in mind because providing pertinent background information can be an effective way to demonstrate that you have a clear grasp of key issues and concepts underpinning your overall study. Don't try to show off, though! And, avoid stating the obvious.

The structure and writing style of your background information can vary depending upon the complexity of your research and/or the nature of the assignment. Given this, here are some questions to consider while writing this part of your introduction :

  • Are there concepts, terms, theories, or ideas that may be unfamiliar to the reader and, thus, require additional explanation?
  • Are there historical elements that need to be explored in order to provide needed context, to highlight specific people, issues, or events, or to lay a foundation for understanding the emergence of a current issue or event?
  • Are there theories, concepts, or ideas borrowed from other disciplines or academic traditions that may be unfamiliar to the reader and therefore require further explanation?
  • Is the research study unusual in a way that requires additional explanation, such as, 1) your study uses a method of analysis never applied before; 2) your study investigates a very esoteric or complex research problem; or, 3) your study relies upon analyzing unique texts or documents, such as, archival materials or primary documents like diaries or personal letters that do not represent the established body of source literature on the topic.

Almost all introductions to a research problem require some contextualizing, but the scope and breadth of background information varies depending on your assumption about the reader's level of prior knowledge . Despite this assessment, however, background information should be brief and succinct; save any elaboration of critical points or in-depth discussion of key issues for the literature review section of your paper.

Background of the Problem Section: What do you Need to Consider? Anonymous. Harvard University; Hopkins, Will G. How to Write a Research Paper . SPORTSCIENCE, Perspectives/Research Resources. Department of Physiology and School of Physical Education, University of Otago, 1999; Green, L. H. How to Write the Background/Introduction Section . Physics 499 Powerpoint slides. University of Illinois; Woodall, W. Gill. Writing the Background and Significance Section . Senior Research Scientist and Professor of Communication. Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. University of New Mexico.

Writing Tip

Background Information vs. the Literature Review

Incorporating background information into the introduction is intended to provide the reader with critical information about the topic being studied, such as, highlighting and expanding upon foundational studies conducted in the past, describing important historical events that inform why and in what ways the research problem exists, or defining key components of your study [concepts, people, places, things]. Although in  social sciences research introductory background information can often blend into the literature review portion of the paper, basic background information should not be considered a substitute for a comprehensive review and synthesis of relevant research literature.

Hart, Cris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

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What is the Background of the Study and How to Write It

background topic meaning

What is the Background of the Study in Research? 

The background of the study is the first section of a research paper and gives context surrounding the research topic. The background explains to the reader where your research journey started, why you got interested in the topic, and how you developed the research question that you will later specify. That means that you first establish the context of the research you did with a general overview of the field or topic and then present the key issues that drove your decision to study the specific problem you chose.

Once the reader understands where you are coming from and why there was indeed a need for the research you are going to present in the following—because there was a gap in the current research, or because there is an obvious problem with a currently used process or technology—you can proceed with the formulation of your research question and summarize how you are going to address it in the rest of your manuscript.

Why is the Background of the Study Important?

No matter how surprising and important the findings of your study are, if you do not provide the reader with the necessary background information and context, they will not be able to understand your reasons for studying the specific problem you chose and why you think your study is relevant. And more importantly, an editor who does not share your enthusiasm for your work (because you did not fill them in on all the important details) will very probably not even consider your manuscript worthy of their and the reviewers’ time and will immediately send it back to you.

To avoid such desk rejections , you need to make sure you pique the reader’s interest and help them understand the contribution of your work to the specific field you study, the more general research community, or the public. Introducing the study background is crucial to setting the scene for your readers.

Table of Contents:

  • What is “Background Information” in a Research Paper?
  • What Should the Background of a Research Paper Include?
  • Where Does the Background Section Go in Your Paper?

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Background of the Study Structure

Before writing your study background, it is essential to understand what to include. The following elements should all be included in the background and are presented in greater detail in the next section:

  • A general overview of the topic and why it is important (overlaps with establishing the “importance of the topic” in the Introduction)
  • The current state of the research on the topic or on related topics in the field
  • Controversies about current knowledge or specific past studies that undergird your research methodology
  • Any claims or assumptions that have been made by researchers, institutions, or politicians that might need to be clarified
  • Methods and techniques used in the study or from which your study deviated in some way

Presenting the Study Background

As you begin introducing your background, you first need to provide a general overview and include the main issues concerning the topic. Depending on whether you do “basic” (with the aim of providing further knowledge) or “applied” research (to establish new techniques, processes, or products), this is either a literature review that summarizes all relevant earlier studies in the field or a description of the process (e.g., vote counting) or practice (e.g., diagnosis of a specific disease) that you think is problematic or lacking and needs a solution.

Example s of a general overview

If you study the function of a Drosophila gene, for example, you can explain to the reader why and for whom the study of fly genetics is relevant, what is already known and established, and where you see gaps in the existing literature. If you investigated how the way universities have transitioned into online teaching since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected students’ learning progress, then you need to present a summary of what changes have happened around the world, what the effects of those changes have been so far, and where you see problems that need to be addressed. Note that you need to provide sources for every statement and every claim you make here, to establish a solid foundation of knowledge for your own study. 

Describing the current state of knowledge

When the reader understands the main issue(s), you need to fill them in more specifically on the current state of the field (in basic research) or the process/practice/product use you describe (in practical/applied research). Cite all relevant studies that have already reported on the Drosophila gene you are interested in, have failed to reveal certain functions of it, or have suggested that it might be involved in more processes than we know so far. Or list the reports from the education ministries of the countries you are interested in and highlight the data that shows the need for research into the effects of the Corona-19 pandemic on teaching and learning.

Discussing controversies, claims, and assumptions

Are there controversies regarding your topic of interest that need to be mentioned and/or addressed? For example, if your research topic involves an issue that is politically hot, you can acknowledge this here. Have any earlier claims or assumptions been made, by other researchers, institutions, or politicians, that you think need to be clarified?

Mentioning methodologies and approaches

While putting together these details, you also need to mention methodologies : What methods/techniques have been used so far to study what you studied and why are you going to either use the same or a different approach? Are any of the methods included in the literature review flawed in such a way that your study takes specific measures to correct or update? While you shouldn’t spend too much time here justifying your methods (this can be summarized briefly in the rationale of the study at the end of the Introduction and later in the Discussion section), you can engage with the crucial methods applied in previous studies here first.

When you have established the background of the study of your research paper in such a logical way, then the reader should have had no problem following you from the more general information you introduced first to the specific details you added later. You can now easily lead over to the relevance of your research, explain how your work fits into the bigger picture, and specify the aims and objectives of your study. This latter part is usually considered the “ statement of the problem ” of your study. Without a solid research paper background, this statement will come out of nowhere for the reader and very probably raise more questions than you were planning to answer.   

Where does the study background section go in a paper?

Unless you write a research proposal or some kind of report that has a specific “Background” chapter, the background of your study is the first part of your introduction section . This is where you put your work in context and provide all the relevant information the reader needs to follow your rationale. Make sure your background has a logical structure and naturally leads into the statement of the problem at the very end of the introduction so that you bring everything together for the reader to judge the relevance of your work and the validity of your approach before they dig deeper into the details of your study in the methods section .

Consider Receiving Professional Editing Services

Now that you know how to write a background section for a research paper, you might be interested in our automated text editor at And be sure to receive professional editing services , including academic editing and proofreading , before submitting your manuscript to journals. On the Wordvice academic resources website, you can also find many more articles and other resources that can help you with writing the other parts of your research paper , with making a research paper outline before you put everything together, or with writing an effective cover letter once you are ready to submit.


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