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Background information is useful to any research project. It helps you and your reader understand how your topic fits into the context of the larger issue at hand and why it is important.
Using Handbooks and Encyclopedias is a great way to understand the nature of an issue before you begin looking for research on the topic. It is easy to approach a topic with our own personal biases and therefore reject good sources that "don't say what we want them to." That is not a good scholarship practice.
These select sources with help give you background information on the issue/ topic as a whole and understand how topics fit together.
Background Information Tools
Oxford Research Encyclopedias This link opens in a new window
In-depth, peer-reviewed summaries on a range of topics.
Very Short Introductions This link opens in a new window
Very Short Introductions can change the way you think about the things that interest you, and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about: from Climate to Consciousness, Game Theory to Ancient Warfare, Privacy to Islamic History, Globalization to Literary Theory. Very Short Introductions online bringing together titles from this well-known and established print series, via a highly discoverable and fully cross-searchable platform.
Britannica Online This link opens in a new window
World Book This link opens in a new window
Based on the World Book encyclopedia, this web site serves as a gateway to its various dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias, images, maps, videos, timelines, current news, links to external articles, and more.
Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia This link opens in a new window
Over 25,000 encyclopedic entries.