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SSI1-141: Architectures of Power (Hale)

Getting Started with Subject Encyclopedias

Building context (and recognizing when you need more context) is an important element in the research process. Tertiary sources, especially subject encyclopedias, are often the best place to start when you are trying to establish some basic historical, social, or cultural context.

Articles in subject encyclopedias are written by scholars who have deep specialization in the topic and the articles themselves go through a stringent editing process. These resources can help you with:

  • Identifying a topic of interest
  • Understanding the scope of a topic
  • Suggesting ideas for narrowing a topic
  • Identifying key concepts, terms, dates and names
  • Listing subject areas related to a topic
  • Recommending sources for further exploration

In Collins Library, the print reference collection is located on the main floor, and most of the online reference collection is available in one of the database collections listed below. Use Primo to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.

Featured Subject Encyclopedias

Start with these subject encyclopedias and branch out as needed.

Exploring Topics

Select 1-2 topics related to the cultural and/or historical context of Lovecraft Country to explore. Consult at least 2 different subject encyclopedia articles for information about your topic and reflect on the following questions.

  1. Does your topic or term have its own entry, or is discussion of it embedded within a larger topic?
  2. What is mentioned in each of the articles you chose? Are there similarities in the information provided?
  3. Which academic disciplines are focusing attention on the topic? Are there any differences in the way the topic is covered?
  4. What types of evidence are cited?
  5. To expand on the basic information you have gained, are there other terms/names you would like to research? 
  6. What additional sources does the subject encyclopedia point you to?

Online Reference Collections

Not sure where to look?  Each of these online collections will introduce you to a wealth of dictionaries and encyclopedias.