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Background information resources

Background information resources give general information about a variety of topics. These are often considered to be general reference sources, meaning that they provide basic facts and knowledge that can be used as a foundation for one's research. A little time spent in background information resources can save a tremendous amount of time when searching in databases and more subject-specific resources.


Almanacs are publications containing useful facts and statistical information; usually published annually. Some almanacs are general, like the Book of Facts in MasterFILE Premier from EBSCOhost while others are subject-specific, such as Astronomical Almanac Online . Search Addison for Almanacs to see a listing.


Bibliographies are lists of books, articles, and other materials about a particular subject or by a particular author. Entries in this list usually follow a specified format such as the APA or CBE style guides and are sometimes accompanied by an annotation. A bibliography is generally found at the end of a book or article, but may comprise the entire article or book in and of itself. Search Addison by subject for your topic and include the term bibliography to find examples. You can search entries from bibliographies in Summon to see if we have access to the source.

Biographical resources

Biographical resources include encyclopedic entries, articles, books, and videos about a person, group, or organization. They provide historical information about a person, lists of authored works, relationships to other people and groups. and analysis of impact on a field. Search Addison by subject for your topic and include the term biography to find sources. Many subject-specific databases provide biographies; check their advanced search screen for limiting options.


Dictionaries can be both lists of words and definition and also alphabetical lists of entries on a topic. Similar to encyclopedias, these subject-specific dictionaries provide overview articles in a field, though not necessarily in as much depth, or with a bibliographic list of references. Search Addison by subject for your topic with the term dictionaries for sources.


Directories are lists of persons or organizations that are systematically arranged. They typically provide addresses and  affiliations for individuals and addresses, officers, functions, and similar data for organizations. Use these to compare organizations or to locate contact information to ask for information directly from the source.


Encyclopedias provide short entries or essays on topics and typically include a short bibliography of references for further research. Most are subject-specific ones like or .


Handbooks provide short entries or chapters on a topic, offering practical guidance or "how-to" instructions. Examples include the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics , ADA Nutrition Care Manual , and Elsevier Handbooks in Economics .

Statistical sources

Statistics can be used to verify your position or support an assertion in your research. Almanacs may offer some statistical information, but statistical sources will provide more in-depth coverage. Examples include the Statistical abstract of the United States and International Monetary Fund eLibrary .


Thesauruses provide lists of terms and synonyms. Examples can be both basic English language thesauruses, like Roget's Thesaurus, that provide synonyms for common English words, and subject-specific thesauruses, that provide official lists of terms (or controlled vocabulary) used in a field, such as the Thesaurus of psychological index terms. Many databases provide thesaurus lookup capabilities for searching their subject or descriptor index-searches. Use these to determine the correct/official term used to describe a topic in that database or field.

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