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ENVS 201 - Introduction to Environmental Science - Bittinger: Background

This research guide will help you find information about topics dealing with the environmental sciences and provides links to the HACC library catalog, licensed databases and internet resources.

Using Background (Secondary) Information in Science

Background information is not just for the humanities. Science relies on background information sources for help in:

  • understanding basic and advanced concepts in disciplines outside a researcher's area of expertise

  • defining unfamiliar terms

  • placing scientific concepts, ideas and events in historical or cultural context

  • integrating new research results into a discipline's knowledge continuum

For the undergraduate science student, background information can also assist you in making informed decisions about which topics to pursue in your papers and to write solid thesis statements. Find quality background information in a wide range of sources, such as: 

  • Background and E-reference databases (HACC Library)

  • Books

  • Government Agencies

  • Newspapers

  • Documentary Films

Climate Change Resources


Background and E-Reference for Science

Primary and Secondary Sources in the Sciences


Primary sources are published works generated on the front lines of science. They record new knowledge coming from field work and laboratories of the discipline. They are the source of original data which either supports or invalidates the researcher's hypothesis. They include: published reports of original research, experiments, direct observations in the field and the theories that arise from them. Examples include original research studies written up by researchers and published in scholarly journals, laboratory notebooks and other original recorded data, conference presentations on original discoveries, doctoral dissertations based on original research.


Secondary sources are published works which interpret, comment on or evaluate primary sources. Examples include published meta-analysis, systematic review articles, expert opinion, committee reports, background articles, book reviews, editorials, readers' letters to the editor, etc. Scientists who interpret, comment on or evaluate the research of other scientists have created a secondary source.

Rule of Thumb

If the author is NOT the person who did the research, it's secondary.

Electric cars are not new

Ad for Baker Electric Cars "The aristocrats of motordom" early 1900's

"Baker Electric Cars" by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Celia Fox
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