Why use background information? Background research:
Provides a good overview of the topic if you are unfamiliar with it. (example: a student doing a market research report on a company using a business research database to lookup information on a particular basis)
Helps identify important facts -- terminology, dates, events, history, organizations, etc (example: a student writing a literary analysis paper using a dictionary of literary terms)
Can help guide your thinking on a topic by providing a foundation. (example: a student completing a mock policy brief on fracking in Pennsylvania consulting a dictionary of environment and conservation)
Leads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information. (example: a student writing a literature review on clinical treatment of postpartum depression researching the history of postpartum depression in a psychology encyclopedia)
Oxford Reference includes dictionaries, including authoritative dictionaries for many languages, encyclopedias, and companions, featuring more in-depth but still brief entries, e.g. Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization.
An excellent source for background information and getting started on a topic, CQ Researcher encompasses original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news. It offers in-depth, unbiased coverage of political and social issues.
Covers a wide range of topics including: health, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, the U.S. economy, crime, and civil liberties.