Although background sources, like encyclopedias and reference databases, can not be counted as "sources" in advanced research papers, background research is not a waste of time. Good reference sources provide summary explanations that are easy to understand and set the context of further research. Things you can learn from background research include:
Key words: what words are commonly associated with your topic?
Dates: Are there dates or time periods that are relevant to your topic?
Web sites: Are there scholarly or reliable web sources that have information about your topic?
Sources: Are there scholarly sources cited in the bibliography of your background article that can be used in your paper?
The adjacent box lists some print and online sources that may provide helpful background information for your literature papers.