Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference resources help you to discover basic information—names, dates, definitions, summaries, etc. These are good places to start when beginning research on an unfamiliar subject, and when choosing or narrowing a paper topic.
Come across a word that is new to you and can't quite figure out what it means based on the context of what you're reading? It's easy to look it up! Some dictionaries and definition sources that can help:
Collections of subject-specific reference works that you can search all at once:
Reading a story, memoir, or essay that's set in a country that's unfamiliar to you? Reference works can help you quickly learn enough about a country's recent (or even older) history to help you better understand the context of the text you're reading.
There are a couple of ways to find more reference works in the library collection: