Background information can help you learn more about your topic and develop your research question, and is often found in reference works, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or bibliographies.
Seeking out background information is often an important early step in the research process.
Reference works can be general in nature, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, but there also may be reference works that are specific to your research area or topic. For example, if you are researching a major work such as James Joyce's Ulysses, you will find several reference works, such as Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, that may point you toward other critical sources and provide you with important background knowledge.
To discover whether there are reference works on your topic, try searching the name of the work you're researching in the library's catalog, with the name of the work as a subject, rather than title.