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VFM 8th Grade Science Fair Project: Step 4: Background Research

In-Text Citation

Background Research

Background research should help you to educate the reader of your project about important aspects of your topic.  

Using multiple resources, students should learn about past results of other experiments that are similar to theirs. Students should know how and why previous experimenters arrived at their conclusions. The background research should help the students give the “because…” in the “if… then… because…” section of their hypothesis.

20 - 30 facts from 3 sources is a reasonable expectation for this section. In the final paper, this background research will be put into paragraph form.


Use the Background Research Planning Worksheet to help you formulate questions that you need to answer for your topic. Each student should become an expert on anything that is closely related to their area of research. 

Why You Should Use Databases

Databases are sometimes called the "deep web" or "invisible web" because their information is usually only accessible through paid subscriptions using passwords and isn't usually found (indexed) by search engines such as Google.

Database records are organized using a variety of indexes such as author and subject but are keyword searchable as well. 

Databases are either subject specific such as World History in Context or content specific such as the newspaper and magazine database through EBSCO. 

Databases contain information that has been checked for the ABC's of authority & accuracy, bias, and content & currency. You can trust the information you find in databases, not like on the web or through Google searches. Sometimes it's accurate, but many times it isn't. 

Library Databases: Start your Search Here

What is Research?

Research is: 

  • Driven by a question that guides the process.
  • Seeking information with a clear goal.
  • A process, which works best when done step- by-step. The steps may need to be repeated.
  • Collection and interpretation of data in an attempt to resolve the problem.
  • Going beyond facts and old ideas.
  • Taking a new look at the information and taking a stand.

Research is not:

  • Copying and pasting information you find through a Google search.
  • Combining a paragraph from one article with a couple of paragraphs from websites. That's plagiarism.
  • Rearranging facts
  • Rewording each phrase and citing each source. That's just a summary of facts with someone else's name on them and still can be classified as plagiarism.

Words for the wise student: 

  • Remember, begin with a "wide net" and then narrow your search results.
  • If you only look for specific information to answer a specific question, you may miss many opportunities to broaden your understanding .
  • Allow for surprises- you may find your views on your topic will change and take you in an entirely new direction.
  • Remember that research is searching again and again.
  • In the process of doing research, you will be looking at information that others have looked at before, trying to see something that they have not seen.