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For a full list of UMD's databases of reference works, visit Database Finder and navigate to "Browse Database by Type" --> "Reference Works"
Even if you are already familiar with your topic, in the course of your research you'll likely come across some related concepts or associated individuals/organizations that are new to you. Encyclopedias (including Wikipedia!) are great places to gather background information.
Note: while these are useful resources, your research shouldn't stop here: use the information you find here to conduct searches for scholarly, popular, and government sources (see the menu on the left for tips on locating those sources). Those sources should form the bulk of your research. If the information you find in encyclopedias and other reference sources influences your final product, be sure to cite it -- but don't rely solely on reference works to support your research.
Full-text database that provides comprehensive analysis of each topic, including history and background information, relevant pro & con arguments, current status, bibliographies, contact information, and outlooks on upcoming "hot topics" in current events. Covers news topics in a wide range of subject fields, from social issues to the environment, health, education, politics, and science and technology. Online access to issues dating back to October 25, 1991.
The crowd-sourced encyclopedia everyone loves to hate is actually a great place to find background info on your topic. Check out an article's "References" section for links to related popular and scholarly sources.