Understanding the context in which a text was written is often important to forming a strong and informed argument. Contexts can include the historical era in which it was written, cultural considerations of the author and setting of the text, and the intellectual ideas being presented. Often this kind of research occurs at the very beginning of the research process because it is your opportunity to fill in the gaps in knowledge you may have about the author and/or text and also help provide overview information about topics that may be relevant to understanding the text.
Use the introductions of your texts to start some of this contextual research. Introductions are often great starting places for building your knowledge about the history and culture in which the text was written as well as the author's life.
Also consider looking at your textbooks from other classes, especially if you have been assigned an anthology edition of works of literature. Have you had a class use a Norton Anthology edition? These are great sources of information about historical or culture contexts. Especially for anthologies spanning multiple time periods, each new section will be introduced with a brief overview of the historical era.
Use the Advanced Search tab on the NOBLE Catalog to filter search results by location. Select the "Reference Room" location option to search specifically for encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks on literature located in the Reference Room.
For keywords, try using the author's name, the name of the text, a particular literary movement, historical era or event, or type of literature such as "English Literature."