Background information: Services & resources for Fraser International College (FIC) students

Starting your research

When you are beginning to research a topic, it is helpful to look at general sources before you form a more specific research question or a thesis statement.

If you have never done a research paper before, or if you need a reminder on the research process, the library has prepared an interactive library search skills tutorial to help prepare you for your assignment.

Searching for background reference sources information


An encyclopedia is a book that contains an overview of facts on a variety of topics. Encyclopedias are available in print or as ebooks. Read encyclopedia articles to get an overview of a topic, learn its terminology, and see a list of references and further reading that you can explore.

SFU Library has a list of general encyclopedias and you can find subject-specific encyclopedias under the "background information" tab on our research guides.


An atlas provides geographical information and maps. Many atlases have themes, providing geographical information in terms of human activity, politics, natural resources, or history.

SFU library has a list of maps and atlases.


A dictionary provides authoritative definitions for words, specialized terminology, or concepts. They can be in print or online.

Librarians have prepared a list of general dictionaries to help you understand key terms and ideas. Check out the research guides for subject-specific dictionaries.

Web research

The web is a powerful search tool, but be aware of its limitations.

Sometimes the web can be home to legitimate, although not necessarily scholarly, sources of information.

It is important to read critically when you do web research.