Strategies for doing background research
There are many different types of information you can search for, related to your topics and/or the organizations with which you're working. You can look for information produced by the organization itself; research the broader issues relevant to your problem or organization; find news about an organization or topic; or find research (statistics, studies, or other scholarly content) on an issue, industry or topic.
Find news articles about the organization, an institution, event, industry or topic. Search specialized categories of news sources - such as business or trade news, or news focused around a particular industry (higher education, advertising, entertainment industry, etc.)
Find measurements of activities, characteristics or behaviors related to an issue, topic or industry. Or demographics about a group of people (for example, Michigan residents, or U.S. college students). Think about who (what organization, which stakeholders) would have an interest in asking/answering questions about a topic/industry, and that may lead to sources of relevant statistics (i.e., the American Library Association probably produces statistics on the number and type of libraries in the U.S.).
About your organization (or industry, topic, larger institution)
If you're working with a particular organization, be sure to check their own website for content about that organization. If the unit you're helping is part of a larger organization (i.e., the University of Michigan), start with information produced by that institution, about its makeup, activities, etc. If you are working with a commercial business, look for annual reports, organizational charts, or white papers. Pay attention to the language they use to describe their own work. If you can't find it elsewhere, don't be afraid to ask your clients directly for the best source of information about themselves or their industry!
Use scholarly article databases to search for current research studies on a particular behavior, activity, or topic. Conducting a literature review means analyzing past research, identifying the most influential scholars in an area, and tying these concepts to the particular problem/issue/topic at hand.
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