Background Sources are books, encyclopedias, almanacs, reference books, etc. that contain condensed information about a subject. This allows the reader to "get up to speed" quickly on that subject; therefore, background sources are usually the best, first place to start your research. When using this type of source, you should note the following:
- The time to publish these types of materials is generally longer than that for journal articles, so they may not provide the most up-to-date information. Nevertheless, they can provide a good idea of what is going on in a field of study.
- These sources are classified as tertiary sources, since they are most often compilations, condensed versions, and/or commentaries on original works. Tertiary sources themselves are not usually used as a direct reference for scholarly work - the researcher should find the original source from which the tertiary version is based. References found within the background source can lead to primary research and notable authors that will assist you in the rest of your research.
- Reading or scanning these sources can inform you of terminology that is relevant to the subject, which will help identify keywords for article searches.