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Subject Encyclopedias

Subject Encyclopedias

Subject Encyclopedias:

  • cover one subject in-depth;

  • contain articles usually written by subject scholars and experts;

  • always cite sources of information;

  • are written at college or higher reading level;

  • are usually acceptable sources for college-level papers.

General Encyclopedias:

  • cover a little bit on all subjects;
  • contain articles usually written by journalists or staff writers;
  • rarely cite sources of information;
  • are usually written at a 7th grade reading level;
  • are generally not appropriate to cite in college-level papers.

Four good reasons to use subject encyclopedias:

  • Get an overview of your topic from a reliable source.
  • Gather valuable keywords (words, phrases, names, dates and events.)
  • Find related topics using the cross-references.
  • Find related articles using the sources.


Subject Encyclopedias:
  • are not meant to be read cover to cover;
  • often have many volumes with hundreds or thousands of pages;
  • often include useful appendices, reading guides, and other “extras.”


Find Subject encyclopedias in both print and digital format:
  • Print Subject Encyclopedias are:
    • shelved in the reference section,
    • arranged by call number,
    • findable through the library catalog.
  • Digital Subject Encyclopedias are:
    • NOT available free by searching Google or any other search engine,
    • ARE available on the library’s website (because the library buys them for you to access).

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