As you are starting to explore a new research topic, reference sources are a good way to gain background information on your topic. High quality, academic, multivolume sets, will often give you the beginnings of scholarly research on a subject by providing a short bibliography of important works on the subject.
Even with advanced subject knowledge of an area, you will run across unfamiliar people, places and events. Library reference sources will allow you to quickly fill in those gaps and improve your contextual knowledge with more reliability than a Wikipedia article.
Van Wylen Library provides acces to several excellent reference databases. For quick, fundamental information on almost any topic, resources like those listed below are frequently the best place to begin researching a topic that is new to you. Best of all, these databases combine the speed and ease of a public reosurce like Wikipedia without sacrificing reliability or scholarly character.
We have many useful reference books; those listed below are just a sampling. You can find more reference books on your exact topic by limiting your search to "van wylen reference" when using HopeCAT.