Reference works are an excellent place to begin a research project. They can help you get background information on an author or genre of literature and often supply bibliographies of primary and secondary texts associated with the author or genre.
Literature Resource Center is an excellent resource for locating biographies of major authors, critical works on these authors, or works on specific genres of literature. The database includes full text.
The Libraries' online Resources by Subject can help you find reference sources, both subscription and free.
Reference works, including print ones, can be identified via the Library Catalog. For example, to search for a dictionary of French literature, try the following as subject searches:
french literature women authors encyclopedias
french literature dictionaries
When less material is available on a given subject, try a broader subject search:
These volumes offer short, critical summaries.