If your prohect involves a specific country, it migth be a good idea to get a brief history of the country. Encyclopedias are a good place to start but there are also other sources to check out.
Biographical information is avaiable in a variety of sources. The Biography Reference Bank and Britannica databases are good places to begin.
For background information on a contemporary author, such as Assia Djebar, an Algerian novelist who has explored the treatment of women in Algeria during the Algerian revolt against the French, consider
Check the onlline catalog and WorldCat to determine if books have been written about the person. This is a good bet for historical figures.
Other suggestions to help you get started.
There are several excellent hsitorical handbooks published by Cambridge University Press.
There are many subject reference sources that provide good background information plus a list of recommended books and articles at the end of each article. You can find thes by searching the online catalog for the phrase "historical dictionary" or "encyclopedia" in combination with the name of a country, region or topic. Or, ask at the Reference Desk for assistance.