All good research of a topic begins with a solid definition or a clear overview of the topic. Encyclopedias and dictionaries offer clear, concise information about a topic and are a good starting point. Encyclopedias are good for an overview of your topic, while dictionaries are useful for "sound bite" definitions that are easy to insert into the beginning of a paper or speech. For basic information, try these general favorites:
For more detailed information and an in-depth overview of current topics in the news, try these excellent sources:
Large collections of reference material are available through the Libraries, which you can search in one stop (which may give you "false" returns), or you can drill down to specific encyclopedias or dictionaries for more precise results.
Finally, look for a particular topic in one of the many specialty encyclopedias or dictionaries, like these: