Dictionaries and encyclopedias help you find background information -- an overview, vocabulary, trends, and issues -- related to the topic. Once you know background information about a topic, it's easier to decide what key words to use when searching for information sources (books, articles, etc.) about your topic.
Scholarly encyclopedias and dictionaries, like what you find in University Libraries, are scholarly resources written by an experts in the field and reviewed for accuracy in a way that other sources, like Wikipedia articles, are not.
This is only a sample of sociology dictionaries and encyclopedias the Libraries has. To find more, search in Library Search for the terms sociology and encyclopedia, or sociology and dictionary.
Try these databases to search through many encyclopedias at once: