The dictionaries and encyclopedias listed below can serve as a great starting point for research. They often provide straight forward overviews of a topic or about a person, in much the same way that Wikipedia does. However, unlike Wikipedia you can cite the below sources in your papers.
Cambridge Companions to Literature and Classics (Cambridge University Press)
Written by experts and designed for the general reader, the Cambridge Companions to Literature and Classics collection offers over 2000 comprehensive and accessible essays on major authors, periods and genres. For the author Companions, each writer is placed in literary and historical context; their major works are analyzed, either in separate chapters or grouped according to theme, and their influence on later writers assessed. The generic and topical Companions cover periods of English literature such as Old English or the Victorian Novel, and literary genres such as Modernism or Greek Tragedy, giving the reader vital contextual information about political, social, religious and artistic relationships. The Companions to Classical Civilisation examine key periods and aspects of the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome. Cambridge History of English and American Literature
Considered the most important work of literary history and criticism ever published, the Cambridge History contains over 303 chapters and 11,000 pages, with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing. Cambridge History of Literary Criticism
The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism provides a comprehensive historical account of Western literary criticism from classical antiquity to the present day. The history will comprise nine volumes and deal with literary theory and critical practice. It is intended as an authoritative work of reference and exposition, much more than a mere chronicle of facts. While remaining broadly non-partisan, it addresses, where appropriate, controversial issues of current critical debate without evasion or pretence of neutrality. Nevertheless, it will maintain throughout a scrupulous concern for factual accuracy and a due representation of differing points of view. Conflict in Northern Ireland: An Encyclopedia Dictionary of Irish Biography (Royal Irish Academy)
Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online (Gale)
Presents authoritative biographies of influential people of Irish heritage including Irish Americans. Only deceased subjects are covered. Includes portraits, if available, and lists works by and about featured individuals. Free online access courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy. Also available in print
Provides full text access to biographical and critical essays on important literary figures from all eras, genres, and geographic areas. Many essays include manuscript pages, portraits, excerpts of criticism, bibliographies, and more. Electronic access extends back to 1978. Encyclopaedia of Ireland
Edited by Brian Lalor. Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online
Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2003.
Offers lengthy overviews of the practice of Judaism around the world, its history, and Jewish responses to contemporary society and moral issues. Online access via Brill. Encyclopedia of American Immigration (Salem Press)
Covers events, laws and treaties, organizations and institutions, and Supreme Court rulings on immigration. Edited by Carl Bankston, Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2010. Encyclopedia of American Immigration (Sharpe Reference)
Traces the scope and sweep of U.S. immigration from the earliest colonial settlements to the present, focusing on critical issues as well as the groups of people involved. Every major immigrant group and every era are fully documented and examined through detailed analysis of social, legal, political, economic, and demographic factors. Edited by James Ciment, Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2001. Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II
The Encyclopedia consists of three general categories: "Roots of War," eight essays outlining the major types of conflicts, "Cold War Confrontations," a general category of articles, Organizations, Alliances, Conventions, and Negotiations and a third category of articles about Organizations, Alliances, Conventions, and Negotiations of the international community dealing with threats to security, resolve conflicts, maintain peace, and punish war criminals. Includes Biographical Thumbnails, Glossary and Master Bibliography Encyclopedia of Immigration and Migration in the American West Encyclopedia of India
The Encyclopedia of India encompasses the history, cultures, geography and religions of India from ancient times to the present day. Across the four volumes of the Encyclopedia, readers are invited to explore India in a comprehensive reference work of more than 600 alphabetically arranged, illustrated articles. Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture (Macmillan Reference)
Presents cross-disciplinary essays on Irish history from prehistoric times to the present, treating both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in detail. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World
Contains thematic articles, biographies of key figures, definitions, illustrations, maps which explore Islam's role in the modern world, in the context of the religion's history and development. Source published in 2004. Online access via Gale Virtual Reference Library. Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture Online (Brill) Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press)
Presents authoritative biographies of influential people who lived in Britain. Covers only deceased subjects. Includes portraits, if available, and bibliographies with citations to works by and about featured individuals. Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press)
Contains the complete text of the second edition of the 20-volume Dictionary. Presents authoritative information on words in the English language, including their form, definition, history, pronunciation, and etymology. Approximately 1,000 new and revised entries are added on a quarterly basis.