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What are Reference Resources?

Descriptions of many types of reference resources and information on how to use them.

Encyclopedias - Background Information

Encyclopedias - Background Information

Encyclopedias are collections of essays that provide concise, factual and accurate background information on a topic - the Who, What, When, Where, Why. Entries in an encyclopedia are short and not appropriate as a cited source for a research paper, but they provide a quick overview of a topic and will jumpstart your research. Encyclopedia entries often include citations to additional books, articles or websites for further reading on the topic. 

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, 2007 15th ed. There are two types of encyclopedias; general encyclopedias and specialized subject encyclopedias.  General encyclopedias, like Encyclopedia Britannica (pictured),  WorldBook or Encyclopedia Americana "cover the waterfront" offering entries on almost all subjects. And what about Wikipedia? It is a very large online encyclopedia, providing information on a multitude of subjects. But since Wikipedia can be written or edited by anyone (yes, that means you too!), the entries may not be complete and are not always accurate.

Published encyclopedias, either in print or online, are written by experts and reviewed by experts to insure that the information is accurate, complete, and useful. Wikipedia is not published in the traditional sense because it does not go through a formal editorial process.

Subject encyclopedias focus on a single topic or discipline, for example:

Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia
Luis A. Cordon
Call number: REF BF31 .C715 2005
The 120 or so entries in this volume cover a wide range of topics, including, for example, Alien abduction, Birth order, Insanity defense, Mad cow disease, Multiple personality disorder, Parenting styles, and Satanic ritual abuse. Also represented are individuals such as Carl Jung and Dr. Phil. The goal is "to try to counteract the tide of misleading information about the field of psychology with a concise guide to some things that the well-informed student of psychology and the interested general public ought to know." 

book cover imageEncyclopedia of Social Theory
Editor, George Ritzer, 2005
get it online
or in print at call number: REF HM425 .E47 2005
" Reference source for anyone interested in the roots of contemporary social theory. The encyclopedia examines the global landscape of all the key theories and the theorists behind them, presenting them in the context needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses." ​

Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 volumes)
Editor, Donald M. Borchert, 2006
Call Number: REF B51 .E53 2006
Presents a collection of alphabetically-arranged entries that provide information on a wide range of topics related to philosophy, including ethics, religion, history, aesthetics, logic, metaphysics, from Aristotle and the Greek Academy, to modern concepts of feminist theory and philosophy of the mind.

book cover imageEncyclopedia of International Sports Studies
Editors, Roger Bartlett, Chris Gratton, Christer Rolf
Call Number: REF GV567 .E45x 2006. The 3 volume Encyclopedia provides comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the science, social science and medicine of sport. The aim of the editors has been to produce a comprehensive work which will be of use to a wide variety of users: students, teachers, researchers, and professionals (coaches, development officers, physiotherapists, etc.). Entries are accessibly written and both facts-fronted and critical.

Gale, Springer, Sage and Ebsco refer to the publisher or platform. Gale and Ebsco are the broadest, Springer is more scientifically focused and Sage has more in the Social Sciences.

  Sage EBSCO

​To find encyclopedias on your topic, either print or online, type in a subject, i.e. dreams, followed by the word encyclopedias:

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