Like the roots of a tree, background information is not always visible but it does play an important role in your research.
Starting research often means finding an overview of a topic, checking facts and data, checking dates of significant events, or looking up definitions of specialized terms. Reference books can give background information, including the scope of the topic area, noteworthy people, and statistics to help jumpstart your research.
The Knight Library has many Spanish and bilingual dictionaries, including historical and topical ones, both in the Reference section on the first floor and in the stacks on the third floor. To browse the collection of Spanish dictionaries that you can borrow, go to the third floor and check the call numbers between PC 4625 and PC 4670, or do a subject search in the library catalog for "Spanish language dictionaries English". English-Spanish bilingual dictionaries are at PC 4640.
In addition to being a great place to start exploring an unfamiliar topic, Wikipedia is considered a tertiary source. Writers of tertiary sources synthesize information from secondary sources and strive to report them in a tone that is as unbiased and neutral as possible.
Some tertiary sources are cited in academic research and others are not. This practice varies by discipline so contact your instructor or a librarian with questions!
Thanks to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of this graphic under a Creative Commons license.
What is considered background information can vary by discipline. If you're not sure what it is or where to find it, check out this YouTube video on primary, secondary, and tertiary sources from Suffolk County Library.
Are you citing background information in your research paper/project? You can always check with your instructor to see if that is acceptable for the assignment or within your discipline/major.