Questions commonly answered with background sources include:
"What is aestheticism?"
"Where can I find more information on Nathaniel Hawthorne?"
"When was the Victorian Period?"
Background sources should be used as a starting point for your research, particularly if you're new to a topic. Be sure to analyze all chosen sources 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, ask your librarian!
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