Encyclopedias are great for:
- choosing a topic
- quick self-education
- perspective on a topic
- variant spellings, vocabulary, terminology
You already know how helpful it is to get some background information on your research topics. Wikipedia is often the default because it's so easy to find an entry and the entries are often helpful.
That said, the quality and reliability of Wikipedia entries is not something you can count on. In addition, most Cornell instructors will tell you that you cannot cite Wikipedia entries.
For this course, you may want to browse or search some of the library's online subject encyclopedias. Admittedly, they are not as easy to search, but the quality of the entries is often worth the effort. In addition, the entries are signed by the author and include the citation.
Middle Ages & Medievalism
Superior to Wikipedia on most topics & disciplines: