Background sources such as encyclopdias provide brief overviews of topics in an easy to look up format. They provide a quick way to become familiar with the ideas, major concepts and basic vocabulary of your subject. Reference sources in the library (both print and electronic) are reliable tools for getting information that is filtered for quality and brevity.
Encyclopedias are a great place to get an overview of a topic that is unfamiliar to you.
Encyclopedias often identify narrower areas within the broad subject, which may suggest a focus for your research. Many encyclopedia article entries also provide a list of references that can help you locate further, more in-depth and scholarly information sources.
Wikipedia can be a place to find specific names, dates and events, but use it mainly as a jumping off point. The bibliographies at the end of Wikipedia articles can be helpful and often point to materials in the library. The library has scholarly subject encyclopedias which provide more reliable and in depth information.
Subject dictionaries can help define unfamiliar words and specialized terminology specific disciplines.
Handbooks, guides and country studies are great places to find statistics.