Background information includes general overviews of broad topics. Think people, places, things, events, and theories. If you're not sure what keywords to use in a library database, finding background information will help you learn more about a topic first and expand your search. Even Wikipedia can be a good starting place for background information. Need something more credible? Try some of the library's databases for background information.
When would I need to find background information? If you're working on a project where you're asked to include facts, you might look into an online encyclopedia or reference book. For example, you need to find information about where you can find a regional plant, its identifying characteristics, and images to include on your slides.
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Background and reference works provide broad overviews and definitions on movements, themes, theories, and other topics. These are great places to start your research and often include resources like Encylopedias.