If your instructor has told you that you can't use encyclopedias be sure to question that limitation to make sure he or she meant to restrict your use of scholarly subject encyclopedias.
Because subject encyclopedias are great resources for finding background information. You could think of them as books filled with detailed articles written by scholars in various disciplines that are like well-written research papers. They are not your average general encyclopedia, like World Book, that has brief articles on a wide variety of subjects.
Subject encyclopedias are:
Doing some background reading at the beginning of your research helps you to understand your topic right from the start. You'll be able to put your topic in context and create research questions that drive your search for information. In addition, when you begin hunting and gathering information, you’ll know if what you’re finding is relevant and useful.
You need to begin understanding your topic early in order to know:
You don't even have to read a lot of complete books to get this valuable background information. Reference books, like encyclopedias and dictionaries, are a wonderful place to start your research.
The MJC Library subscribes to several online databases that are great for finding background information.