Background information can be found in:
Reference books are a good starting point for your research:
Once you have identified some keywords, the next step is to find background information on your topic. Background research serves many purposes.
Specialized encyclopedias have:
The Library provides a selection of reference works in print format, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks. Here are some examples of selected sources.
Anchor Bible Dictionary
New Westminster Dictionary of Church History
A Dictionary of Pastoral Care
Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith
Encyclopedia of Christianity
Encyclopedia of the Early Church
A Handbook of Theological Terms
In addition to the print reference resources, there are some electronic reference materials. Please understand that these are not to replace the print resources mentioned above.
"The DACB is an international undertaking aimed at producing an electronic database containing the essential biographical facts of African Christian leaders, evangelists, and lay workers chiefly responsible for laying the foundations and advancing the growth of Christian communities in Africa." Contains nearly 1,000 biographies.
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge
The 1907 edition of this monumental 13 volume reference work.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia, as its name implies, proposes to give its readers extensive and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine.
Study Light.org: The International Study Bible Encyclopedia
This practical, authoritative, and complete classic reference encyclopedia explains every significant word in the Bible and Apocrypha. It gives detailed information on the language and literature of Bible lands, and the historical and religious environments of the people of the Bible in articles by nearly 200 scholars.
An online version of a printed one-volume compendium of historical and theological data that is Lutheran based. This Internet version allows easy access to the names and terms of significant people, places, ideas, and institutions in church history and “secular” history. While it has the evangelical leaning of the Missori Synod, it still has some good information!
Encyclopedia.com, the Internet’s premiere free encyclopedia, provides users with more than 57,000 frequently updated articles from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Seventh Edition. Each article is enhanced with links to newspaper and magazine articles as well as pictures and maps – all provided by eLibrary.
Concise Dictionary of Religion by Irving Hexham
The 1994 edition is a handy and reliable dictionary of terms from different religions. Lexicons based on King James and New American Standard. Downloadable Greek and Hebrew fonts in addition to audio are used for assistance.
Believe—Religious Information Source
BELIEVE is a collection of over 2,000 articles by scholars on around 900 religious subjects. It is essentially an online dictionary.
A substantial and straightforward glossary of ecclesiastical language.
This web site includes more than 4.000 articles and chapters in full text. Topics organized by topic include Old and New Testament, Theology, Ethics, History and Sociology of Religion, Communication and Cultural Studies, Pastoral Care, Counseling, Homiletics, Worship, Missions and Religious Education. An online reference site.
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations
“A collection of passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature.” Based on the 1901 edition, searchable with chronological and alphabetical indexes.
Outline of Objects and Topics in Scrolls from the Dead Sea Scrolls
A scholarly site with texts, graphic files of the Scrolls and general information on the world of the Dead Sea scrolls.