When you are exploring a topic with which you are unfamiliar or have only limited information, it's valuable to find at least one source (e.g. subject encyclopedias, companions, etc.) that provides some background information. These types of sources are neutral in tone and provide a scholarly yet accessible introduction to a topic in the broadest sense; identify key ideas and themes; may point to important people associated with a topic; introduce unfamiliar terms that can be added to a list of keywords; provide a bibliography/list of works cited/sources for further study.
Bailey/Howe Library subscribes to many electronic scholarly subject-specific encyclopedias, companions, and dictionaries from two publishers: Gale and Oxford University Press. In addition to searching each title individually, you may search across all the titles in each publisher's aggregated database. The library owns many, many more subject-specific print and online encyclopedias, companions, and dictionaries. Ask a librarian for help in locating these.