Finding background information is critical to starting your research on a topic. How can you know what to search for if you don't have a basic understanding of the topic? How can you develop keywords for your searches if you don't really know what you are looking for?
It is important to consult sources for basic information on a topic, so when you start digging through the different resources, you can be an informed searcher.
It can also help to brainstorm about your topic when you are getting started. Brainstorming helps you find a focus, and at the same time, generates extra terms to use to keep your searches flexible.
Sources like these can contain a little information about a lot of things (like a general encyclopedia), or a lot of information about a specific thing (like a subject specific encyclopedia). A few resources to get you started: