Encyclopedias and Handbooks provide basic overviews of topics as well as quick identifications of people, places, and events. These titles, like the ones listed below, are written and compiled by scholars who are experts in the field. Most of the articles and essays collected in the volumes have the added bonus of a list of recommended books and journal articles for further reading. This is a valuable starting point for your research.
Literature reviews are a particularly useful resource when doing research. They address the issues involved in a particular question and the debates among scholars. They map out the intellectual terrain succinctly and give you the major landmarks in terms of key authors and significant titles for greater understanding.