Background Information in an Essay: How to Write and Example

Background Information in an Essay

Background Information in an Essay

When assigned an essay, it is advisable to assume that your target audience does not know anything about your topic hence the reason why you should provide background information.

This enhances your audience’s understanding of the essay topic and subject matter. They will know what to expect in the body paragraphs of the essay.

Even though the essay has been assigned to you by your instructor and they already know the expectations, it is important to provide some background information in the introduction. 

What is the Background of an Essay?

A background in an essay is the part or point within the essay where you provide contextual knowledge or introductory information to the readers to help them understand the essay’s subject matter. 

the subject matter

The background sets the stage for the main arguments or discussion that will be presented in the essay. 

What is Background Information in an Essay?

“Background information” in an essay is the content that is provided within an essay’s background to provide the readers with introductory information or contextual knowledge. 

The background information helps orient your readers and equip them with the relevant foundational knowledge and context to understand the main discussions and arguments that follow within the body paragraphs. 

When you provide the background information within your essay, you are establishing to your readers the relevance of your topic. This gives them the relevant information to engage with the content of your essay.   

Also Read: Can a Literature Review have Pictures, Diagrams or Charts?

How to Write Background Information in an Essay

1. Identify the Key Elements

When writing background information in an essay, it is important to determine the key aspects of your topic that need to be addressed within the section.

Normally, the background information of an essay includes elements like a brief introduction of your topic, key definitions and concepts, historical context, relevant data or facts, and an overview of the existing research relating to your topic. 

2. Conduct Research and Gather Relevant Information

Before writing the background information of your essay, ensure that you have conducted thorough research so that you can gather the relevant information and sources that are related to your topic. 

It would be difficult to briefly introduce the topic and provide a brief historical context without understanding your topic through research. If possible start discussion posts on relevant platforms to gather further insights.

You should only utilize reputable sources such as scholarly articles and journals, books, and credible websites so that the information you provide in the background is accurate and reliable. 

3. Organize the Information

Once you have researched and gathered the relevant information concerning your topic, organize it in such a way that it is logical and coherent. 

Put into consideration the flow of the information in addition to how it will effectively support the main discussion or argument in your essay. 

4. Begin with a Broad Introduction

When writing the background information section of the essay, start with a broad introduction to your topic. 

Give a brief overview of the topic’s subject matter and its significance. This will set the context of the essay and grab your readers’ attention. 

5. Give Historical Context if Applicable

If your essay’s topic has some historical aspects, provide relevant historical background information. 

Here, you should provide key historical developments, events, or circumstances that will help your readers understand the current issue or situation presented in your topic. 

6. Define Key Concepts and Terms

defining terms

Introduce and define any specialized jargon, terms, or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers. 

This ensures that the readers have a clear understanding of the terminologies and concepts used throughout the essay. 

7. Present Relevant Data or Facts

Include relevant facts, data, or statistics that will help in establishing the magnitude or scope of your topic. This can give a qualitative or quantitative perspective on the issues discussed. 

8. Summarize Existing Research if Applicable

When your essay is part of a greater academic discourse, briefly summarize the key arguments or findings from relevant scholarly sources

This shows that you acknowledge the existing body of knowledge concerning your topic and highlights your essay’s contribution to the academic discourse. 

In summary, when you are writing the background information in an essay, it is imperative to ensure that you present it clearly and concisely in addition to being relevant to the essay’s topic. 

Avoid spending a lot of time on it and providing too much information and details.  

Also Read: Time to Write a Thesis or Dissertation: Tips to Finish Fast

How to Write Background Section in Research Writing

The background section in research writing differs from that of an essay because it gives a more in-depth and comprehensive review of the existing research and literature related to your topic. 

When writing the background section in research, you should:

Conduct a Literature Review

writing literature review

You should conduct a thorough literature review before writing the background section.

This will help you identify and father relevant scholarly sources like books, journal articles, and conference papers. 

Organize the Literature

Analyze and organize the gathered literature per the relevant theories, themes, or key research findings. 

Note the major concepts and gaps within the existing research that your study wishes to address. 

Provide a Historical Context

Provide a brief historical context of your topic that traces the evolution of the research question or development of the field. 

This helps your readers understand how your research fits within the broader scholarly discourse, in addition to how the ideas have progressed. 

Present Key Concepts and Theories

Briefly introduce and explain the key concepts, models, and theories that are relevant to the research. 

This shows that you understand the theoretical framework that underpins your research. It also provides your research question’s foundation. 

Highlight Research Questions and Gaps

Identify the limitations or gaps within the existing literature that your study aims to fill. 

State the objectives or research questions of your study and explain how they will address the identified gaps. 

Justify your Research’s Significance

Explain the relevance and significance of your research within the larger practical or academic context. 

Demonstrate how your study contributes to existing knowledge, addresses a practical problem, or advances the field. 

Also Read: Should a Literature Review be Critical? Tips How to do it

Background Information Example

An example of background information from an essay with the topic “The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health” is:

“Exercise has long been recognized as a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle. Beyond its physical benefits, several studies have shown that exercise also has a positive impact on mental health. 

Regular physical activity has been linked to improved mood, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enhanced overall well-being. Research has shown that exercise can mitigate the risk of developing mental health disorders. It has been associated with a lower incidence of conditions such as depression and anxiety, in addition to playing a crucial role in the management and treatment of these conditions as well.

Understanding the benefits of exercise on mental health is essential for individuals seeking to improve their overall well-being. By incorporating regular physical activity into their routines, individuals can experience improved mood, reduced stress levels, and enhanced mental resilience.

This essay explores the existing literature on the relationship between exercise and mental health, highlighting the specific mechanisms through which exercise positively affects mental well-being. The aim is to further emphasize the importance of exercise as a tool for promoting mental health and well-being”.

Also Read: How to Tell If a Research Paper Is Good: Tips from A to Z

Do’s & Don’ts when Writing Background Information


As earlier discussed in this article, the Do’s when writing background information includes providing the necessary context, including relevant facts and data, citing credible sources, focusing on relevance to the topic, and being concise. 


Do not include irrelevant information or overgeneralize, do not plagiarize, and do not overwhelm your readers with too much information or details since they will be provided in the body.