In every English class I've ever attended, the teacher always says, "DON'T USE WIKIPEDIA FOR YOUR RESEARCH." I understand why they say this, but I don't agree. I think Wikipedia is a perfect place to start from.
Key word: start. Wiki provides a condensed summary and gives a student an overall grasp on their topic. Academic literature is so specialized, it can't give the overall picture quickly or easily. Unless you read a book, but then they go into so much detail, it takes way too long to wade through all the information.
Of course, never cite Wikipedia, but it's incredible helpful to visit the Wiki article's sources and use them as a starting point for research. They'll give keywords you may not have thought of and direct you to other pertinent articles. Wiki articles teach you the language of the topic and help prepare you for the technical language of academic writings. Wiki is written for the layman, but it launches the layman into specialist field.
So that's why I'm starting at Wikipedia from now on. It will save me so much time and energy, and better prepare me to do my actual research.