Doing some background reading will give you a better understanding of your topic and will give you direction for your research. The aims of a background information search are to define terms, gather facts, and get an overview of the topic.
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
General dictionaries and subject dictionaries can help you define the words used in your assignment question. Encyclopedias provide facts and give expert summaries on a topic. Dictionaries and encyclopedias can be found in the Library in print or as e-dictionaries and e-encyclopedias.
Wikipedia is a popular online encyclopedia with entries that can give a useful overview of a topic, and references that can lead you to further resources.
Textbooks, general books and electronic books (e-books) are good starting places for research on a topic. They provide factual and detailed information on the main aspects of a topic. You might find a whole book on a topic, or a chapter within a book on a broader topic. You can find books on your topic on your reading list, through recommendations from your lecturer, and in the library catalogue.
Google and other web search engines
Search engines are useful for finding background information on a topic. Search engines also help you define your topic, by using the keyword 'define' alongside your keywords.
Other sources of background information
There are many other sources of background information. Yearbooks, handbooks, and almanacs will give you factual information. Government publications will give you an overview and key statistics on a topic. Your lecture notes are useful for a topic overview and further references.
For more ideas about where to find background information on a topic, see the subject guide for your area of study.