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Beginning Your Research

Why find background info?

Once you have decided on a topic and identified the main concepts of your topic, it is important to gather background information. Background information will help enhance your understanding of a topic and help you understand your topic within the larger scope of a discipline. By locating background information, you can find summaries of the main ideas central to your topic, learn the vocabulary that is used to describe your topic, and discover bibliographies that can help you further your research.


Encyclopedias are good resources for general background information.  Articles in encyclopedias are often written by different contributors who are knowledgeable about their topics. 

Suggested general encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias and dictionaries

Subject specific encyclopedias and dictionaries contain more detailed articles specific to a certain discipline. A variery of subject specific encyclopedias and dictionaries are available through the Credo Reference.

The Library also subscribes to numerous print and electronic encyclopedias and dictionaries.  To search for specialized, subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries, perform an Advanced Search in CityU LibraryFind. Search the word "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries"  and input the keyword of your subject (e.g. "economics").


Finding articles or reference entries in encyclopedia or dictionaries

With CityU LibraryFind, you can now find articles or reference entries across the e-dictionaries or e-encyclopedias subscribed by the Library:

  1. Enter your keyword/s in the Books, Media & Articles+ search scope. Your search will be done across multiple platforms, including many e-reference databases.
  2. Then, refine your search results by Resource Type - Reference Entries.

Enter your search terms below to try it out! Your search results will be limited to Reference Entries.


Using Wikipedia for background info

Wikipedia is a free, online encylopedia which can provide you with significant backgound information. It is particularly useful for finding information about new technologies, current events, and popular culture.  Wikipedia is developed and maintained by individuals around the world; anyone can make a contribution to it. 

Wikipedia, and the information that it provides, is continually evolving.  As Wikipedia is NOT a scholarly resource, it is advised that you use Wikipedia in order to familarize yourself with a topic but not as a main resource that you will use as part of a research paper or project.  For more reliable background information, try one of the Library's E-Reference.


Your textbook may offer valuable background information.  Check for articles with bibliographies!