Background information is the information you use to become informed about a topic. It's not usually the information you should cite, but rather it is a springboard for your further research. As you learn more about your topic through using background sources, pay attention to the new keywords that may be useful in your future searches, and jot them down or record them in a spreadsheet.
Gathering background information helps you:
Encyclopedias, in print or online, are a good place to begin looking for background information. Try these sources:
Background information sources, like grammar reference books, are a great source on prescriptive or normative use of the Spanish language. Check out a few examples on the right.
As you gather background information about your topic, your research question may change and that’s okay. Background information should inform you of what’s already known about your topic so that you can ask questions that truly require research to answer. Sometimes background information can be called “reference information.” In fact, there’s a whole section of Norlin Library that has reference materials.
One place you can start is Wikipedia, but be sure to check other sources including library subscription encyclopedias (see links in the box above). You can use Wikipedia to:
This list is a mixture of subscription databases and freely-available web resources.
Reference sources, especially general history books on a topic, can be great sources of background information. Here are som examples from the catalog. We have many more, so be sure to do some of your own searches based on your topic using the Chinook widget (above).