Encyclopedias are highly recommended as a starting point for your research on a particular topic. Encyclopedias will give you introductory information to help you broaden or narrow your topic, while also providing keywords and terms needed to conduct further research.
Many students use Wikipedia at the beginning of the research process. While information and data found on Wikipedia is easily accesible and often accurate, it should not be cited as source material.
Because Wikipedia is an open-source virtual library, almost anyone is allowed to edit and insert information in an article. Therefore, caution should be used when choosing to use Wikipedia for background information. Whenever possible authorative resources should be consulted to verify the accuracy of any data found on Wikipedia.
The following article from Cornell University provides an overview of how to use Wikipedia effectively.