Questions commonly answered with background sources include:
"What is philosophy?"
"Where can I find more information on specific philosophical disciplines?"
"Who was Socrates?"
Background sources should be used as a starting point for your research, particularly if you're new to a topic. Be sure to analyze any sources you choose to use for subject authority and relevancy, as not all sources are equal in their usefulness to your research. If you are ever unsure about a source, feel free to ask your librarian for help!
Why use dictionaries and/or encyclopedias?
Background sources such as, but not limited to, dictionaries and encyclopedias provide context for your topic or even help you choose one. Researchers use them when they need:
A brief overview of a topic
Definitions of terminology
Important issues, figures, dates, and/or events for a topic
Sources for further research in the form of bibliographies