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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Background information identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to contextualizing 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. Background information does not replace the literature review section of a research paper; it is intended to place the research problem within a specific context and an established plan for its solution.

Fitterling, Lori. Researching and Writing an Effective Background Section of a Research Paper. Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences; Creating a Research Paper: How to Write the Background to a Study. DurousseauElectricalInstitute.com; Background Information: Definition of Background Information. Literary Devices Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.

Importance of Having Enough Background Information

Background information expands upon the key points stated in the beginning of your introduction but is not intended to be the main focus of the paper. It generally supports the question, what is the most important information the reader needs to understand before continuing to read the paper? Sufficient background information helps the reader determine if you have a basic understanding of the research problem being investigated and promotes confidence in the overall quality of your analysis and findings. This information provides the reader with the essential context needed to conceptualize the research problem and its significance before moving on to a more thorough analysis of prior research.

Forms of contextualization included in background information can include describing one or more of the following:

  • Cultural -- placed within the learned behavior of a specific group or groups of people.
  • Economic -- of or relating to systems of production and management of material wealth and/or business activities.
  • Gender -- located within the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with being self-identified as male, female, or other form of  gender expression.
  • Historical -- the time in which something takes place or was created and how the condition of time influences how you interpret it.
  • Interdisciplinary -- explanation of theories, concepts, ideas, or methodologies borrowed from other disciplines applied to the research problem rooted in a discipline other than the discipline where your paper resides.
  • Philosophical -- clarification of the essential nature of being or of phenomena as it relates to the research problem.
  • Physical/Spatial -- reflects the meaning of space around something and how that influences how it is understood.
  • Political -- concerns the environment in which something is produced indicating it's public purpose or agenda.
  • Social -- the environment of people that surrounds something's creation or intended audience, reflecting how the people associated with something use and interpret it.
  • Temporal -- reflects issues or events of, relating to, or limited by time. Concerns past, present, or future contextualization and not just a historical past.

Background information can also include summaries of important research studies . This can be a particularly important element of providing background information if an innovative or groundbreaking study about the research problem laid a foundation for further research or there was a key study that is essential to understanding your arguments. The priority is to summarize for the reader what is known about the research problem before you conduct the analysis of prior research. This is accomplished with a general summary of the foundational research literature [with citations] that document findings that inform your study's overall aims and objectives.

NOTE : Research studies cited as part of the background information of your introduction should not include very specific, lengthy explanations. This should be discussed in greater detail in your literature review section. If you find a study requiring lengthy explanation, consider moving it to the literature review section.

ANOTHER NOTE : In some cases, your paper's introduction only needs to introduce the research problem, explain its significance, and then describe a road map for how you are going to address the problem; the background information basically forms the introduction part of your literature review. That said, while providing background information is not required, including it in the introduction is a way to highlight important contextual information that could otherwise be hidden or overlooked by the reader if placed in the literature review section.

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; Pyrczak, Fred. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 8th edition. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2014; Stevens, Kathleen C. “Can We Improve Reading by Teaching Background Information?.” Journal of Reading 25 (January 1982): 326-329; 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.

Structure and Writing Style

Providing background information in the introduction of a research paper serves as a bridge that links the reader to the research problem . 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 problem 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, debates, and concepts related to your overall study.

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. However, in most cases it should be limited to only one to two paragraphs in your introduction.

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 there a key study or small set of studies that set the stage for understanding the topic and frames why it is important to conduct further research on the topic?
  • Y our study uses a method of analysis never applied before;
  • Your study investigates a very esoteric or complex research problem;
  • Your study introduces new or unique variables that need to be taken into account ; or,
  • 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 . However, despite this assessment, background information should be brief and succinct and sets the stage for the elaboration of critical points or in-depth discussion of key issues in the literature review section of your paper.

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, defining key components of your study [concepts, people, places, phenomena] and/or placing the research problem within a particular context. Although introductory background information can often blend into the literature review portion of the paper, essential 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; Pyrczak, Fred. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 8th edition. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2014.

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11.5: Background Information (or Helping Your Reader Find a Context)

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It is always important to explain, contextualize, and orientate your readers within any piece of writing. Your research essay is no different in that you need to include background information on your topic in order to create the right context for the project.

In one sense, you’re giving your reader important background information every time you fully introduce and explain a piece of evidence or an argument you are making. But often times, research essays include some background information about the overall topic near the beginning of the essay. Sometimes, this is done briefly as part of the introduction section of the essay; at other times, this is best accomplished with a more detailed section after the introduction and near the beginning of the essay.

How much background information you need to provide and how much context you need to establish depends a great deal on how you answer the “Getting Ready” questions at the beginning of this chapter, particularly the questions in which you are asked to consider you purpose and your audience. If one of the purposes of your essay is to convince a primary audience of readers who know little about your topic or your argument, you will have to provide more background information than you would if the main purpose of your essay was to convince a primary audience that knows a lot about your topic. But even if you can assume your audience is as familiar with the topic of your essay as you, it’s still important to provide at least some background on your specific approach to the issue in your essay.

It’s almost always better to give your readers “too much” background information than “too little.” In my experience, students too often assume too much about what their readers (the teacher included!) knows about their research essay. There are several reasons why this is the case; perhaps it is because students so involved in their research forget that their readers haven’t been doing the same kind of research. The result is that sometimes students “cut corners” in terms of helping their audience through their essay. I think that the best way to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings is for you to always remember that your readers don’t know as much about your specific essay as you do, and part of your job as a writer is to guide your reader through the text.

In Casey Copeman’s research essay at the end of this chapter, the context and background information for the subject matter after the introduction; for example:

Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

The problems surrounding corruption in university athletics have been around ever since sports have been considered important in American culture. People have emphasized the importance of sports and the significance of winning for a long time. According to Jerome Cramer in a special report published in Phi Delta Kappan, "Sports are a powerful experience, and America somehow took this belief of the ennobling nature of sports and transformed it into a quasi-religion" (Cramer K1).

Casey’s subject matter, college athletics, was one that she assumed most of her primary audience of fellow college students and classmates were familiar with. Nonetheless, she does provide some basic information about the importance of sports team in society and in universities in particular.

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Organizing Academic Research Papers: Background Information

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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. Background information in your Introduction should indicate the root of the problem being studied, 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.  Introductory background information differs from a literature review in that it places the research problem in proper context rather than thoroughly examining pertinent literature.

Importance of Having Enough Background Information

Background information expands upon the key points stated in your introduction but is not the main focus of the paper. Sufficient background information helps your reader determine if you have a basic understanding of the research problem being investigated and promotes confidence in the overall quality of your analysis and findings.

Background information provides the reader with the essential context needed to understand the research problem . Depending on the topic being studied, forms of contextualization may include:

  • Cultural -- the issue placed within the learned behavior of specific groups of people.
  • Economic -- of or relating to systems of production and management of material wealth and/or business activities.
  • Historical -- the time in which something takes place or was created and how that influences how you interpret it.
  • Philosophical -- clarification of the essential nature of being or of phenomena as it relates to the research problem.
  • Physical/Spatial -- reflects the space around something and how that influences how you see it.
  • Political -- concerns the environment in which something is produced indicating it's public purpose or agenda.
  • Social -- the environment of people that surrounds something's creation or intended audience, reflecting how the people around something use and interpret it.
  • Temporal -- reflects issues or events of, relating to, or limited by time.

Background information can also include summaries of important, relevant research studies . The key is to summarize for the reader what is known about the specific research problem before you conducted your analysis. This is accomplished with a general review of the foundational research literature (with citations) that report findings that inform your study's aims and objectives.

NOTE : Research studies cited as part of the background information of your introduction should not include very specific, lengthy explanations. This should be discussed in greater detail in your literature review section.

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.  

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 . But precisely how long and in-depth this bridge should be is largely dependent upon how much information you think the reader will need in order to understand the research problem 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 topic. Keep this in mind because providing succinct background information can be an effective way to show that you have a clear grasp of key issues and concepts underpinning your overall study. Don't try to show off, though!

Given that 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, here are some questions to consider while writing :

  • 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 add needed context, to highlight specific people, issues, or events, or to lay a foundation for understanding the emergence of a current issue or event?
  • Is the research study unusual in some way that requires additional explanation, such as, a) your study uses a method never applied before to the research problem you are investigating; b) your study investigates a very esoteric or complex research problem; or, c) 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.

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, 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.

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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.

What is Background of the Study in Research

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.

Why is Background of the Study Necessary in Research?

The background of the study discusses 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 background information:

  • 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?
Related: Ready with the background and searching for more information on journal ranking? Check this infographic on the SCImago Journal Rank today!

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

How to Write a Background of the Study

The structure of a background study in a research paper generally follows a logical sequence to provide context, justification, and an understanding of the research problem. It includes an introduction, general background, literature review , rationale , objectives, scope and limitations , significance of the study and the research hypothesis . Following the structure can provide a comprehensive and well-organized background for your research.

Here are the steps to effectively write a background of the study.

1. Identify Your Audience:

Determine the level of expertise of your target audience. Tailor the depth and complexity of your background information accordingly.

2. Understand the Research Problem:

Define the research problem or question your study aims to address. Identify the significance of the problem within the broader context of the field.

3. Review Existing Literature:

Conduct a thorough literature review to understand what is already known in the area. Summarize key findings, theories, and concepts relevant to your research.

4. Include Historical Data:

Integrate historical data if relevant to the research, as current issues often trace back to historical events.

5. Identify Controversies and Gaps:

Note any controversies or debates within the existing literature. Identify gaps , limitations, or unanswered questions that your research can address.

6. Select Key Components:

Choose the most critical elements to include in the background based on their relevance to your research problem. Prioritize information that helps build a strong foundation for your study.

7. Craft a Logical Flow:

Organize the background information in a logical sequence. Start with general context, move to specific theories and concepts, and then focus on the specific problem.

8. Highlight the Novelty of Your Research:

Clearly explain the unique aspects or contributions of your study. Emphasize why your research is different from or builds upon existing work.

Here are some extra tips to increase the quality of your research background:

Example of a Research Background

Here is an example of a research background to help you understand better.

The above hypothetical example provides a research background, addresses the gap and highlights the potential outcome of the study; thereby aiding a better understanding of the proposed research.

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.

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 presentation very informative

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It is really educative. I love the workshop. It really motivated me into writing my first paper for publication.

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an interesting clue here, thanks.

thanks for the answers.

Good and interesting explanation. Thanks

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

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When i was studying it is very much hard for me to conduct a research study and know the background because my teacher in practical research is having a research so i make it now so that i will done my research

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Hello, I am Benoît from Central African Republic. Right now I am writing down my research paper in order to get my master degree in British Literature. Thank you very much for posting all this information about the background of the study. I really appreciate. Thanks!

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Background Information

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
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  • Grading Someone Else's Paper

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 a Background in an Essay: Introducing Information

What is a Background in an Essay: Introducing Information

Writing A Background in an Essay

Writing A Background in an Essay

Background in an essay refers to material provided in a nonfiction essay. It can also be defined as work that explains the context of the issue you will explore in the essay.

This information is connected to the hook or opening statement, and then to the thesis statement, which you will write last at the end of the introduction.

background information in an essay

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What is Background Information in an Essay

The background information is the supporting points you employ to demonstrate your argument or viewpoint. It is the grounds on which you base your point of view to prove your argument. background information is found in the introduction, just after the opening statement or the hook.

essay introduction

The amount and type of background material depend on the goal and topic of your essay.

You may need to provide definitions or an overview of the problem you discuss in the essay.

The background information in an essay will depend on the topic.

The background information in an essay on a scientific test may include test parameters, test objectives, test site conditions, sample kinds, sample size, and other background material.

If your essay is about COVID 19, your background information may touch on diverse points. These may include what kind of virus it is, its origins, and how many countries it has affected.

It may also include how many people have contracted it, and how it is transmitted from one person to another, among other things.

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How to Write Background Information in an Essay                          

The key to writing background information in an essay is to master the art of the introduction. Grabbing the reader’s attention at the beginning allows you to include the information they need to comprehend your work.

The first paragraph/section of an essay is the introduction, and it is critical to creating an excellent paper. The introduction helps you begin the essay by grabbing the reader’s attention.

Then, you provide background information plus map out the core topic, direction, and objective of your essay.

Usually, an excellent introduction starts with a discussion around the essay’s topic. After that, you move on to the specific ideas you will explore in the body.

How do you Write the Introduction and include background information in an Essay?

Example of essay background

Use an effective hook to make a solid first impression. This piques the curiosity and attention of readers, encouraging them to keep reading.

Provide background information about the main topic of the essay. It establishes a general framework for the paper by providing readers with the information they require before reading it.

It should start with broad concepts and then narrow down to the thesis (a single-focused idea).

Conclude with a concise thesis statement that indicates your motivation for writing, expresses the main idea/argument, and gives the body of the work a direction or outline.

The hook is the tool that captures attention and makes the readers want to keep reading. You can shape it as a question, an interesting fact or statistic, a quotation, or a story.

You can also use any other intriguing idea that piques readers’ curiosity and encourages them to continue reading.

Regardless of which option you choose, ensure the hook links to the essay’s topic in some way.

The background information sets the stage for the essay by offering a high-level summary of the topic. It introduces the broad topic(s) and eases the reader into the subject with general information.

Also, it may comprise concepts, facts, history, definitions, and other material that helps comprehend the specific information offered in the body.

It is critical to understand your audience and evaluate what readers may or may not know about the topic to provide relevant background information.

Besides, it enables you to offer readers the information they require before continuing to read the essay. So, presenting background information in the introduction acts as a link that connects the reader to the issue.

The length and depth of this bridge depend on how much information you believe the reader will need to comprehend the topic and realize why the difficulties you are looking at are essential.

Your thesis statement highlights the key idea or main argument and your motivation for writing the essay. You can also use it to outline the supporting ideas you explore in the body. It is usually the final sentence of the introduction.

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Examples of Background Information in an Essay

1.”gettysburg address” abraham lincoln.

The hook in Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was that the founding fathers believed that all men are created equal. Then he gave some background on the current state of the Civil War:

Gettysburg address

Now we are in the midst of a major civil war, which will determine whether that nation or any other nation so conceived and dedicated, can last for a long time.

And we have met on one of the war’s most important battlegrounds.

We’ve decided to devote a piece of the field as the last resting place for those who gave their life here so that this country could live. It is entirely appropriate for us to do so.

2. “Goodbye to All That” by Joan Didion

Notice how the introduction hooks your attention and then swiftly offers you some background information about Joan Didion’s life in this personal essay by Joan Didion:

The origins of things are easy to perceive, but the endings are more difficult to see. I can pinpoint when New York began for me now, with a clarity that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

But I can’t pinpoint when it ended or cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the precise point on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.

I was twenty when I first saw New York. It was summer, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress.

It had seemed very smart in Sacramento but had already seemed less smart, even in the old Idle wild temporary terminal.

The warm air smelled of mildew, and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I’d ever seen and all the songs I’d ever heard sung and all the stories I’d ever read about New York.

Josh Jasen

When not handling complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.

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What is introductory background information?

background information in an essay

This is the first of three chapters about Background Information . To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Introduce the concept of background information

– Discuss the purpose and presentation of background information in an academic essay

– Provide an authentic example introduction to provide a model for the reader

Chapter 1: What is introductory background information?

Chapter 2: Which background elements are important?

Chapter 3: How can I write background information effectively?

Before you begin reading...

  • video and audio texts
  • knowledge checks and quizzes
  • skills practices, tasks and assignments

Although academic tutors (and students) often spend the most time analysing and perfecting the thesis statement , stance and outline of an introductory paragraph , in reality the majority of an essay’s introduction is often dedicated to the inclusion of background information . Because such background may comprise up to 80% of an essay introduction, this three-lesson course aims to explore the concepts, purpose and recognisable elements of effective background information. After introducing those concepts and elements below, Chapter 2 then deconstructs these aspects more carefully, providing a variety of examples to guide the reader. Finally, Chapter 3 explores five pieces of advice that students should follow if they wish to create effectively written background information with confidence and ease.

What’s the purpose of background information?

Before beginning to plan or construct an academic introduction , a writer should carefully consider the purpose of the introductory paragraph – and more specifically its background information . While the thesis statement may be designed to clearly indicate the essay question, the writer’s stance and the general structure of the body section , the purpose of the background information is (1) to introduce the overall topic, (2) to contextualise that topic by providing key information, (3) to explain and define any difficult or subject-specific terminology , and (4) to signify the purpose of the essay and the overall importance of the selected topic. 

How is background information presented?

As will be further explored in Chapter 2, there are a number of optional background elements that may be included at the writer’s discretion – such as a hook to interest the reader or a definition of any key terms or abbreviations. While the length and inclusion of many of these elements depends wholly on the essay topic and focus, the general presentational rule for background information is that it moves from a general to specific structure. As is shown in the diagram below, this general to specific ordering is in fact the most common structure for an essay introduction: 

background information in an essay

Can I see some examples?

To demonstrate background information more clearly for students, we’ve created an introductory paragraph below that should be read carefully. The background information in this introduction will be deconstructed closely in Chapters 2 and 3.

Foreign Aid is Effective in the African Continent. Discuss.

The question of whether a richer country should provide financial assistance to a poorer nation is not a contemporary one. 1 In fact, recent evidence suggests that cultures as ancient as the Egyptians may have given generous financial assistance to their foreign neighbours on a yearly basis (Smith, 2016). 2 Ironically, the majority of countries that now depend upon foreign AID exist firmly within the African continent. 3 AID, or Assistance for International Development, is however a relatively recent concept, with $1.7 trillion now spent annually on providing international support for the less affluent countries (Jones, 2018). 4 Many researchers have claimed that as much as 65% of this vast sum of money has over the last decade failed to achieve its intended purpose (Lee and Lee, 2016; Smith and Jones, 2019), with projects either being abandoned or falsified altogether. 5 With poverty levels increasing year on year both within the donating and receiving countries, the question of the efficacy of foreign AID has been raised in the literature. 6 Although significant sums of money have been poorly invested in the African continent, this evaluative essay determines that the effectiveness of foreign AID in Africa is clearly apparent in tertiary educational institutions, in transportation infrastructures, and in the combating of transmissible diseases such as bilharzia and malaria. 7

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Background Information . Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/introductory-paragraphs/background-information/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

  • Brandeis University Writing Resources
  • EAP Foundation
  • Hull University Library Guides

Downloadables

Once you’ve completed all three chapters about background information , you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks .

Our background information  academic reader (including all three chapters about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Gain unlimited access to our background information  beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this reader’s chapters. 

To check a confident understanding of this  reader’s chapters , click on the button below to download our  background information   intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our background information  advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this  reader’s chapters . 

To save yourself 5 Marks , click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our background information  chapters and worksheets. The All-in-1 Pack includes every  chapter in this reader, as well as our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets in one handy PDF.

Click on the button below to gain unlimited access to our background information   teacher’s PowerPoint, which should include everything you’d need to successfully introduce this topic.

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Informative Essay — Purpose, Structure, and Examples

Daniel Bal

What is informative writing?

Informative writing educates the reader about a certain topic. An informative essay may explain new information, describe a process, or clarify a concept. The provided information is objective, meaning the writing focuses on presentation of fact and should not contain personal opinion or bias.

Informative writing includes description, process, cause and effect, comparison, and problems and possible solutions:

Describes a person, place, thing, or event using descriptive language that appeals to readers’ senses

Explains the process to do something or how something was created

Discusses the relationship between two things, determining how one ( cause ) leads to the other ( effect ); the effect needs to be based on fact and not an assumption

Identifies the similarities and differences between two things; does not indicate that one is better than the other

Details a problem and presents various possible solutions ; the writer does not suggest one solution is more effective than the others

What is informative writing?

Purpose of informative writing

The purpose of an informative essay depends upon the writer’s motivation, but may be to share new information, describe a process, clarify a concept, explain why or how, or detail a topic’s intricacies.

Informative essays may introduce readers to new information .

Summarizing a scientific/technological study

Outlining the various aspects of a religion

Providing information on a historical period

Describe a process or give step-by-step details of a procedure.

How to write an informational essay

How to construct an argument

How to apply for a job

Clarify a concept and offer details about complex ideas.

Purpose of informative essays

Explain why or how something works the way that it does.

Describe how the stock market impacts the economy

Illustrate why there are high and low tides

Detail how the heart functions

Offer information on the smaller aspects or intricacies of a larger topic.

Identify the importance of the individual bones in the body

Outlining the Dust Bowl in the context of the Great Depression

Explaining how bees impact the environment

How to write an informative essay

Regardless of the type of information, the informative essay structure typically consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Introduction

Background information

Explanation of evidence

Restated thesis

Review of main ideas

Closing statement

Informative essay structure

Informative essay introduction

When composing the introductory paragraph(s) of an informative paper, include a hook, introduce the topic, provide background information, and develop a good thesis statement.

If the hook or introduction creates interest in the first paragraph, it will draw the readers’ attention and make them more receptive to the essay writer's ideas. Some of the most common techniques to accomplish this include the following:

Emphasize the topic’s importance by explaining the current interest in the topic or by indicating that the subject is influential.

Use pertinent statistics to give the paper an air of authority.

A surprising statement can be shocking; sometimes it is disgusting; sometimes it is joyful; sometimes it is surprising because of who said it.

An interesting incident or anecdote can act as a teaser to lure the reader into the remainder of the essay. Be sure that the device is appropriate for the informative essay topic and focus on what is to follow.

Informative essay hooks

Directly introduce the topic of the essay.

Provide the reader with the background information necessary to understand the topic. Don’t repeat this information in the body of the essay; it should help the reader understand what follows.

Identify the overall purpose of the essay with the thesis (purpose statement). Writers can also include their support directly in the thesis, which outlines the structure of the essay for the reader.

Informative essay body paragraphs

Each body paragraph should contain a topic sentence, evidence, explanation of evidence, and a transition sentence.

Informative essay body paragraphs

A good topic sentence should identify what information the reader should expect in the paragraph and how it connects to the main purpose identified in the thesis.

Provide evidence that details the main point of the paragraph. This includes paraphrasing, summarizing, and directly quoting facts, statistics, and statements.

Explain how the evidence connects to the main purpose of the essay.

Place transitions at the end of each body paragraph, except the last. There is no need to transition from the last support to the conclusion. A transition should accomplish three goals:

Tell the reader where you were (current support)

Tell the reader where you are going (next support)

Relate the paper’s purpose

Informative essay conclusion

Incorporate a rephrased thesis, summary, and closing statement into the conclusion of an informative essay.

Rephrase the purpose of the essay. Do not just repeat the purpose statement from the thesis.

Summarize the main idea found in each body paragraph by rephrasing each topic sentence.

End with a clincher or closing statement that helps readers answer the question “so what?” What should the reader take away from the information provided in the essay? Why should they care about the topic?

Informative essay example

The following example illustrates a good informative essay format:

Informative essay format

Calculate for all schools

Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, personal background essay examples.

Hey everyone! I'm working on my college applications, and part of it requires a personal background essay. I'm a little stuck, so if you guys could share some examples or tips, that'd be great! Please help me out, thanks!

Hello! It's understandable that writing a personal background essay can be challenging. Here are some tips to get you started and an example of how you might approach this essay:

1. Reflect on what makes your background unique. Consider your family's history, culture, traditions, values, and how these have shaped your experiences.

2. Delve into the details. Discuss specific experiences, anecdotes, or events that have had a significant impact on your life and highlight the lessons you've gained from your background.

3. Be authentic. Write from the heart and let your personality shine through. This essay is your opportunity to help the admissions officers get to know you beyond your stats and accomplishments.

4. Avoid clichés. Personal background essays are quite common, so if you're writing about a widely-covered topic (moving, learning a new language, etc.), try to find a unique angle or aspect that will set your essay apart.

Growing up in a multigenerational household, I've had the rare privilege of experiencing diverse perspectives on life from my grandparents, parents, and siblings. My grandparents, who emigrated from Vietnam, taught me the importance of staying true to our cultural heritage and maintaining strong connections with family. Daily rituals like preparing and enjoying traditional Vietnamese meals, participating in Lunar New Year celebrations, and listening to stories about my grandparents' journey to the United States helped me appreciate the strength and resilience of my ancestors.

However, this cultural pride was not always something I cherished. As a child, I was bullied for my Banh Khot and Banh Mi lunches, and I'd often ask my parents to pack more generic-looking sandwiches to avoid feeling like an outsider at school. It wasn't until my grandmother shared her own story of assimilation and how she strived to maintain her cultural identity in a new country that I realized the value of embracing my heritage. Inspired by her courage, I decided to educate my peers about Vietnamese traditions and founded a cultural exchange club at school. Together, we explored our heritages, organizing potlucks, cultural presentations, and language exchange sessions.

Through this experience, I've learned that embracing who I am and the unique background I come from has made me a stronger person. My personal background has taught me to be open to learning about other cultures, which I look forward to bringing to my future college community.

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

IMAGES

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  2. How can I write background information effectively?

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  3. How To Write An Argumentative Essay: Background Information

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  4. PPT

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  5. The Background Information Essay

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  6. Background Information in an Essay: How to Write and Example

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  1. 10/20 Lines on Cricket || Cricket || Cricket Information || Essay/Paragraph writing on Cricket

  2. 02_How to Set the Background of Your Article, Write Rationale and Objective(s)?

  3. Essay Writing Tools #4: Plagiarism Checking Tools

  4. Tips on Writing the Background of the Study

  5. Elements of Communication and Its Application in Healthcare

  6. Mastering Essay Introductions_ Your Key Guide

COMMENTS

  1. Background Information Examples for Essays and Papers

    Learn how to write background information in an essay or paper with examples from personal, political, and scientific essays. Find out when and how to include background information to help your reader understand your work.

  2. Examples and Definition of Background Information

    Learn what background information is and how to use it in different types of essays. See examples of background information from literature and learn its function and structure.

  3. Background Information

    Background information can also include summaries of important research studies. This can be a particularly important element of providing background information if an innovative or groundbreaking study about the research problem laid a foundation for further research or there was a key study that is essential to understanding your arguments ...

  4. Background Information in an Essay: How to Write and Example

    Learn what background information is and how to write it in an essay. Find out the key elements, tips, and examples of background information in an essay and research writing.

  5. How to Structure an Essay

    Learn how to organize your essay with background information in the introduction or the first paragraph of the body. Find useful templates and tips for different types of essay structures: chronological, compare-and-contrast, and problems-methods-solutions.

  6. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Learn how to write an effective introduction paragraph for your academic essay. Find out how to hook your reader, give background information, present your thesis statement and map your essay's structure.

  7. 11.5: Background Information (or Helping Your Reader Find a Context)

    But often times, research essays include some background information about the overall topic near the beginning of the essay. Sometimes, this is done briefly as part of the introduction section of the essay; at other times, this is best accomplished with a more detailed section after the introduction and near the beginning of the essay. ...

  8. Background Information Essay Examples: What to Include?

    Learn how to write a compelling background information essay for your college application. Find out what to include, such as life events, passions, cultural identity, and unique qualities.

  9. Organizing Academic Research Papers: Background Information

    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, important historical events that inform why and in what ways the research problem exists, or defining key ...

  10. Introductions

    In general, your introductions should contain the following elements: When you're writing an essay, it's helpful to think about what your reader needs to know in order to follow your argument. Your introduction should include enough information so that readers can understand the context for your thesis. For example, if you are analyzing ...

  11. How can I write background information effectively?

    Learn the five key tips and advice for writing background information for the introductory paragraph of an academic essay, such as considering the elements, including key sources, being concise and relevant, and editing carefully. See examples of ineffective and effective background information and access interactive units, worksheets and teacher's PPT.

  12. What is Background of the study and Guide on How to Write it

    1. Identify Your Audience: Determine the level of expertise of your target audience. Tailor the depth and complexity of your background information accordingly. 2. Understand the Research Problem: Define the research problem or question your study aims to address. Identify the significance of the problem within the broader context of the field.

  13. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  14. Background Information

    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 ...

  15. What is a Background in an Essay: Introducing Information

    The background information in an essay will depend on the topic. The background information in an essay on a scientific test may include test parameters, test objectives, test site conditions, sample kinds, sample size, and other background material. If your essay is about COVID 19, your background information may touch on diverse points.

  16. What is introductory background information?

    Chapter 1. Although academic tutors (and students) often spend the most time analysing and perfecting the thesis statement, stance and outline of an introductory paragraph, in reality the majority of an essay's introduction is often dedicated to the inclusion of background information. Because such background may comprise up to 80% of an ...

  17. What Is Background Information and What Purpose Does It Serve?

    Background information is an important component of an essay, research paper or presentation because it can get the reader's attention and prompts them to keep reading. Depending on the topic, background information might take a particular tone or approach to provide context or address a question. In this article, we define background ...

  18. Example of a Great Essay

    Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order: An opening hook to catch the reader's attention. Relevant background information that the reader needs to know. A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument. The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay.

  19. PDF Introductions

    your introduction; that information may fit in better later in your essay. When you're deciding how much context or background information to provide, it can be helpful to think about that information in relation to your thesis. You don't have to tell readers everything they will need to know to understand your entire essay right away.

  20. Informative Essay

    Informative essay hooks. Directly introduce the topic of the essay. Provide the reader with the background information necessary to understand the topic. Don't repeat this information in the body of the essay; it should help the reader understand what follows. Identify the overall purpose of the essay with the thesis (purpose statement ...

  21. Personal background essay examples

    This essay is your opportunity to help the admissions officers get to know you beyond your stats and accomplishments. 4. Avoid clichés. Personal background essays are quite common, so if you're writing about a widely-covered topic (moving, learning a new language, etc.), try to find a unique angle or aspect that will set your essay apart. Example:

  22. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    Like other academic essays, an argumentative essay begins with an introduction. The introduction serves to capture the reader's interest, provide background information, present your thesis statement , and (in longer essays) to summarize the structure of the body.

  23. Skibidi Toilet

    Skibidi Toilet is a machinima web series of YouTube videos and shorts created by Alexey Gerasimov and uploaded on his YouTube channel DaFuq!?Boom!.Produced using Source Filmmaker, the series follows a fictional war between human-headed toilets and humanoid characters with electronic devices for heads. Since the first short was posted in February 2023, Skibidi Toilet has become viral as an ...