Finding Background Articles

What is a Background Article?

Background articles are non-academic or non-scholarly articles from the popular press (magazines, newspapers, etc.) that are used to provide basic information on your topic for your presentation. These sources help you explain the basics of your topic that won't be covered in the more complex scholarly research and review articles you find in PubMed.

Background Articles can help you answer questions like:

  • What are the symptoms that mark a variation of this gene?
  • How is life different for someone with this generic variation?
  • What social or legal implications are there of testing for this genetic variation?

Finding Background Articles

Articles and More...

Be sure to check off "Include newspaper articles" after you search. Then use the format limit to see Magazine Articles or Newspaper Articles

Separating the Background Information from the Research

The vast majority of magazine and newspaper articles you will encounter will be discussing new research pertaining to the topic. These article often contain lots of useful background information about the variation or condition and are great to include in your paper...


You should not use these articles to discuss new research in the field. This is the job of the research and review articles you get from PubMed. If you want to discuss a new study or research in the field in your paper you need to find the scholarly article where the researchers published their findings.

For Example

Let's say I found the following article while looking for background articles on Marfan's Syndrome:

"Drug May Heal Marfan's Syndrome". Harvard Reviews of Health News (May 11, 2007)

The article contains several paragraphs discussing the symptoms and prevalence of this condition, information that I have not come across elsewhere. I'll use that information in my presentation and cite this article as the source.

The article also discusses new research being done into a drug used for high-blood pressure that may help Marfan's patients live longer by reducing the stress on their arteries. It mentions the name of the researcher and the journal the new research was published in. If I want to talk about this possible new therapy I need to cite the original research article.

So I use PubMed to search for articles on Marfan's, searching for the name of the journal and that of the researchers that the Harvard Reviews' article mentioned to find the original research article. I can even use PubMed to find follow-up articles and research that happened after my background article was published.