Background information gives a mental map of the topic plus helps you understand the main concepts or jargon used in scholarly articles. For an overview done for a summer institute, see the tutorial in the box immediately below.
There are many types of background information resources, such as encyclopedias, print and electronic book, dictionaries, and the web and Wikipedia used judiciously.
Some examples of background information are below. But for other ideas, for subjects not related to earth sciences, see the subject library guides for ideas about background information sources, or check with the science librarian. Just as one example., the biology library guide has a resource called "eLS", and encyclopedia of the life sciences.
This video tutorial for undergraduate use discusses the role of "background information" in library research. This was done for a summer institute about data. It makes some points that are relevant to any subject area.
You can use Google to find background information.
Use the Google Advanced Search, to do a precise search. Then, evaluate one of the webpages that come up. The resource below provides ideas about how to evaluate websites.
Web resources can be rich sources of information on a topic, but when conducting research, it's important to consider the quality and accuracy of sites you visit on the open web. Use the CRAP test to determine whether a web resource is trustworthy:
Wikipedia can be a valuable source of background information and stepping stone to discovering academic resources. *Often wikipedia has useful links listed at the bottom of an article.*
You will of course have to confirm independently information you find in Wikipedia.
Here is a detailed guide about Wikipedia.
For information about the reliability of Wikipedia, see this Wikipedia article.
Below are some examples of background information sources.
Elsevier Reference Works (and books)
There are various ways to search this extensive collection: