Need to look up a term, name, place, or event? Reference collections are great places to START the research process. Results are authoritative and trustworthy. Bonus--most include formatted citations at the bottom of each entry!
Books and specialized reference collections are often a better and more efficient approach to learning about important issues. Consider these advantages:
Big Picture - Books are often the best way to understand how a topic fits into the larger context of an issue. They can help you visualize how all of the pieces of a research puzzle fit together.
Terminology - Books offer a great introduction to subject vocabulary (search terms) and to the most influential people, places, and things associated with a topic. Think about it; you can't expect to find relevant information about a topic if you don't know what search terms appear in the published literature.
Citation Mining - Books contain lists of additional sources related to your topic. Bibliographies are like maps; they often lead to the best and most respected primary and secondary sources about a topic.
You do not have to read an entire book to use it as a research source! Just focus on the relevant chapters or specific pages, then format your citation accordingly.
When beginning a topic investigation, reading 15 pages from a book or encyclopedia with a broad context is often better than reading 15 pages from a journal article with a narrow focus.