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How Do I

Background Information

Background information can be found in:

  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias
  • article databases

Find Reference Sources in the Library Catalog

Reference Books [both print and online] can be found in the library catalog.  Try a keyword search for your area of interest and encyclopedia or dictionary.  Handbooks and companions may also be helpful.


  • (science OR scientific) AND encyclopedia
  • virus AND encyclopedia
  • film AND dictionary
  • "civil war" AND encyclopedia
  • "caribbean literature" AND companion

See a List of All Reference Databases

Purpose of Background Research

Background research:

  • Provides an overview of the topic
  • Helps identify important facts [terminology, dates, people, history, events, organizations, etc.]
  • Can help refine your topic
  • Leads to bibliographies, which provide additional sources of information
  • Provides key terms, persons, etc. to add to database searches

General Online Reference Databases