Integrative Learning Project—Background Paper

Research Background

Final Product—1 (probably 2+ pages) in length, single spaced, cite references in text and in final references section. Three or more references (more is better) from journal articles and books (and journal articles you find online are journal articles, just cite them correctly). A background paper is a review of the literature. So you will locate articles and synthesize your findings from those articles. What do they tell us about the topic you are presenting, what do we currently know, what works or not, how common is a particular problem, what are the root causes and so no.

It would be helpful to get some insight into your Integrative Learning Project/Research Topic (behavior/pattern) that affects your academic/life success and happiness (you can also change topics and write about something else important to you from the Research Topics list). This is something you want to do more or less of, like procrastination, time management, adopting new health habits, like healthier eating, or working on improving sleeping, emotional literacy is another excellent topic, managing anxiety, work/school/life balance and so on.

For this assignment it will be helpful to look at the research literature in this area. The goal is to find out what information is available on the topic.  Having some knowledge about your issue, possible root causes, strategies for making some progress toward your goal, can greatly improve your outcomes. Trying to make change without understanding of causes and solutions can be very slow and ineffective, random, haphazard. It is like trying to operate a new piece of equipment with no instructions, very inefficient.  People have worked on these issues, studied these issues, and that provides a roadmap.  Seeing what is known about the issue, current knowledge and theories, and what people have done to get from current to desired state, will increase efficiency and effectiveness. This is an important part of the problem solving process – seeing what is already known.  Why reinvent the wheel when there is so much information out there already (and there is also a lot of potentially misleading, inaccurate, self-serving information out there – so discrimination is required as well).

The purpose of the background section of your Integrative Learning Project is to see what other ideas are out there, how other researchers have worked on the same issue.  It is like the background section of a research paper.  It is a review of the literature on your topic of choice.  So, for example, if you were looking at improving sleep you background section might include some general information on prevalence of sleep issues, effects of irregular sleep on health and productivity, and strategies for improving sleep.  The first place to look for this information will be from high quality scholarly sources.  Use the library databases, probably Pubmed, Psychinfo, and also Google Scholar; those would be good places to start looking for information on most of your topics.

If you include the word ‘review’ in your search terms you will find review articles.  Those are helpful as they look at a number of studies, usually the best quality studies on a particular issue, and synthesize all the findings for you.  That can be a helpful ‘one stop shopping’ source for evidence-based information.  You can also get an appropriate book or two on your topic from the campus library.

Writing the Background section will give you more ideas, from people who think seriously about these issues, on how to approach your topic.  Feel free to try some of the new ideas you find in your own change process.

Make sure you cite your sources when you write your review of the literature – go to the Purdue website to see standard APA or MLA formatting:

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