There are many handbooks, guides, and companions that provide basic information for historical studies. If you are selecting a topic, build a framework by consulting definitions or a quick overview found in these resources and then focus on your topic by searching for more specific information. The Cambridge History of China will be a great place to start as well.
The Cambridge History of China is the largest and most comprehensive history of China in the English language. These volumes are a great resource for laying out the main developments in political, social, economic and intellectual life of China in their respective periods and should be an integral part of your research.
Here are some other tools you might find helpful for topic exploration or, later, as you're working on your research:
"Chinese language," "Mandarin," "Pinyin," "Wade-Giles," and other related topics. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Chinese romanization converter. This site will help you convert Pinyin romanization of Chinese names, terms, & placenames into Wade-Giles romanization, and vice-versa.
Benjamin Elman. "Classical historiography for Chinese history."