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Never Fear, Online Encyclopedias are Here!

Often the best method to beginning research is to start by collecting background information on your topic. One familiar type of resource for getting a brief overview of a topic is, of course, the encyclopedia. Although encyclopedias still exist in print format, many are now also available electronically. Using the online versions allows you to find the same articles as you would in the print version. The benefits provided by the electronic version include: more frequent update, clickable links to cross references, and the option of saving entries in different formats. All of this lets you get to the information you need more quickly.

Most online encyclopedias are found in the Library’s online Reference Collection. Another way to narrow down the more specialized electronic encyclopedias, is by clicking on the “My Research Subject Is…��? link of the library’s main page. Online encyclopedias are generally listed under the “Internet Resources��? heading. Some of these subject-specific encyclopedias are not included in the online Reference section, so be sure to check both locations.

Another nice feature of online encyclopedias is that you don’t always have to search one encyclopedia at a time. The International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family, The Encyclopedia of Child Development, The Encyclopedia of Aging, and The Macmillian Encyclopedia of Death & Dying utilize the same interface, which allows you to search all of the titles at once, or select a single encyclopedia to search. Some of the additional features of this interface include :

  • results may be downloaded in either HTML or PDF format.

  • A camera icon to the right of a result lets you know if that entry includes images.

  • Entries contain a bibliography as well a listing of related terms (“see also��?), which are often hyperlinked.

As you can see, online encyclopedias are an essential tool for today's researcher. Take a look at the many titles offered by the University Libraries, and give one or two a try. If you need further assistance or have any questions about how to use online encyclopedias, we are happy to help. Drop by the Reference Desk, call us at 442-3691, or send us an e-mail.

Blog entry created by Michael Daly