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What is a background source?
Background sources are written for a general audience and are intended to give an overview of a topic, fill gaps in the reader’s knowledge, and provide context for deeper understanding. Examples include Wikipedia, introductory textbooks, and reference works such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. They can be a useful place to start your research and can assist in selecting a topic for a research project, locating basic information and key facts, defining important words and concepts, and getting suggestions for additional sources to consult.
Typical characteristics of background sources:
- intended to be informative
- provide context, background, or summary information
- present shared information and established facts; information is uncontested
- offer suggestions for additional sources of information on the topic
Hundreds of dictionaries, general reference, language reference, and subject reference works from Oxford University Press.
Oxford Research Encyclopedias
Designed to be an authoritative resource of reference content in a wide array of academic fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and science.
Historical overviews and contextual essays from leading scholars on topics across a broad range of time periods and geographies. Chapters can be downloaded as PDFs and are printable.
Encyclopedias & Dictionaries