What Is Background Information? (With Types and Sources)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 21, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The information you provide in an essay, report, research, or article to clarify your topic serves as a background for the reader. Providing this information can help you get your reader's or audience's attention. Understanding how to source this information and apply it to your writings can help you connect effectively with your readers and audience. In this article, we consider the definition of background information, highlight its importance, explore six types and how you can apply them to your writing, outline their sources, and provide relevant tips.

What is background information?

Background information serves as a set of details you can use to establish context or evidence in a piece of writing. While this isn't the primary focus of your writing, you can use these details to make your writing more resonant or persuasive. The objective and nature of your writing can also influence how you apply this information. For instance, the information that forms the background of a narrative article may take a more informal tone when you compare it to that of a formal report.

Timing is also vital for including contextual information in your writings or presentations. Where the information comes too early in your article, you may lose the reader's attention, and if you include it too late in your writing, it can make your point difficult to understand. By making timely addition of this information, you can help the reader understand your points and connect with your message. For instance, you can add context to a financial report by explaining why a particular percentage is noteworthy by comparing it to results in other countries or from an earlier quarter.

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The importance of providing context

Providing context in your writing or reports can take the form of including historical facts, definitions of jargon, current events, or expert opinions. The essence of including this information in its various forms is to grasp the reader's attention and improve their understanding of the topic. You can also use this information to help your audience identify key terms, personalities, dates, or events you plan to use later on in your writing. When writing your introduction or opening statement, you can include this information to give the reader or audience an overall idea of your report's focus.

You can determine the nature of context to provide in your articles depending on the type of writing or presentation you're developing. For example, your article can be descriptive, analytical, professional, expository, or argumentative. These articles require different kinds of backgrounds. You can also use your information to establish various contexts within your articles, including cultural, historical, interdisciplinary, spatial, political, social, and economic.

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Types of background information and how to apply them in your writing

Various forms of writing require different kinds of backgrounds or context, and here are some ways you can apply information as background in your articles:

Defining information

This form of information offers your readers a background into the subject you're writing about through a definition. By defining your topic or certain terms related to the subject, you can distinguish your subject from similar matters. You can also make your work unique through definition. Defining information allows you to communicate to your readers how your writing takes a new perspective on a subject. You can also use defining information to make your specialized subjects relatable.

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Descriptive information

You can use descriptive information to improve your readers' connection to your topic of choice. This form of context works well in narrative essays or journalistic articles. You can use these details to establish a sense of place or time in your essay or presentation. Using descriptive information as a background in your writing involves sensory details, including touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. These details help you communicate an experience to your readers or audience, which is useful in depicting the state of a place or portraying the situation of a historical period.

Related: Understanding Figurative Language (With Examples)

Classifying information

Using this type of information to develop a background in your articles can help your readers develop a sense of classification with your topics. This understanding is vital to broad topics, and it helps your readers place your subject within a specific category. You can use this kind of information to distinguish your subject from similar subjects in the same category or show any topics they can derive from your subject. For instance, if you're writing about communication, you can use this information to classify your subject into nonverbal communication in the workplace.

Process information

Using process information to establish a background in your reports involves outlining the steps or processes involved in realizing a specific task. It's common to use numbers and other forms of data to provide this background. For instance, suppose you're writing a report on how a new direction in product design has led to a significant increase in customer satisfaction. You can use data as evidence of customer satisfaction before the change in product design. Outlining how various aspects of the design address customers' needs and expectations is also a functional method.

Argumentative information

This type of information is essential to argumentative writing. You can also adapt this information's use of perspective when making pitches. Using this type of information as a background for your writing involves outlining different perspectives on subjects, policies, and opinions to foster conversations and change. You can use figures, expert opinions, and quotes when using this information. For instance, if you're writing an article on the perception of productivity in your department, you can delve into existing notions of productivity then introduce new ones for your readers or audience to decide between them.

Persuasive information

Using this information type is similar to using argumentative information as a background. The key difference with this type of information is that it allows you to actively persuade the audience or reader into understanding your perspective. This type of information allows you to identify with the reader's existing beliefs or convince them of a different opinion. For example, suppose you want to convince members of your department to adopt a new management approach. You can relate your personal experience with your team members in a presentation that explores the nature of the theory Y management style.

Read more: Understanding the 4 Writing Styles (And How to Use Them)

Sources of information

Here are some sources you can look into for information to provide context or evidence for your writing:

Internet

The internet has become a popular source of accessing the news, observing trends, and learning new facts. You can use digital platforms and social media accounts as a source of information. The free flow of information on the internet and other digital platforms makes it important to verify the information you find through these sources. You can verify the information by comparing multiple sources or referring to credible sources, including publications, expert opinions, and documentaries.

Libraries

You can access this source of information through physical or digital systems. For instance, you can browse through the contents of a digital library to gain access to books, magazines, journals, and other publications where you can get information or facts. You can also consult a librarian near you for materials to help you understand certain historical events.

Journals

These are professional and peer-reviewed sources of information that usually contain the writings of professionals, including scientists, researchers, and academics. You can use this source of information when writing on specialized or technical subjects that require credibility. It's important to cite the authors or researchers when using information from these sources.

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers are a great source of information, especially when your article or presentation deals with historical events. You can use this as a primary source to understand events through reports from the time they took place. You can also use the content of magazines to serve as a background for your writings, including pictures, interviews, survey questions, and editorials.

Databases

Databases differ in their availability. While some are available to the general public, some require qualifications before you can use them. For instance, you can access your workplace's research database because you qualify as a member. Databases offer introductory, comprehensive, and specialized overviews of a wide range of subjects and issues.

Encyclopedias and dictionaries

These sources of information can take electronic and print forms. Encyclopedias are expansive resources of facts, historical events, statistics, terminologies, and other vital information on various topics. You can also use general or special dictionaries to derive definitions for terms in your article.

Tips for adding context to your writing

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you're adding contextual information in your writing:

  • Present data chronologically: Outlining your information in a clear order and establishing a logical connection between them is essential to holding your reader's attention. You can establish order by using transition phrases to show the connection between subjects.

  • Write clearly: The essence of providing a context in your writing is to clarify your subject. It's important to use clear language to connect with your readers when providing your background.

  • Focus: Providing context and background in your writing is more effective when focusing on a subject. If you have multiple subjects, you can address them in parts with clear transitions between them.

  • Be concise: Ensure you keep your information brief when providing context on a topic. This helps you communicate your message efficiently and keeps your reader on track.


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