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Background information is very useful when narrowing down your topic, or when first learning about your topic. Background research (or pre-search!) is the first step in the research process. Getting background information on your topic allows you to learn enough about your topic to decide which specific aspect of that topic you wish to focus on, and gives you enough information about your topic for you to be able to talk about your topic for about a minute without repeating yourself.
The best way to complete background research is to use a reference book!
Reference Books on Topic
These books are reference books. A reference book is a book that is used primarily to supply background information on a particular topic. They are often produced by experts in a particular field and are not intended to be read from cover-to-cover: instead, you can find an entry in the reference book that mentions your topic and just read that entry. Most reference books will have an index in the back of the book that will allow you find out on which page your topic would be.
Examples of reference books include dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, and handbooks.
Reference books are found in the Reference Collection, or the green-labeled shelves in the library. You cannot check out reference books from the library, but you can look at them for as long as you are in the library, and you may take photo-copies of reference books.