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SSI1-177: What is Marriage For?

Getting Started with Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias, handbooks and overviews are scholarly, tertiary works written by experts on a variety of topics. The articles are typically longer and more detailed than those found in general encyclopedias. The background information provides a good starting point as you begin the research process. These resources can help you with:

  • 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 first floor, and most of the online reference collection is available in one of the databases listed on this page. Use Primo to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.

Featured Tertiary Sources

Start with these subject encyclopedias and branch out as needed. 

Primary Sources: Subject Collections

Online Reference Collections

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

Questions to Ask When Using Subject Encyclopedias

Consult at least 2 different subject encyclopedias (online or in print) for information about your topic and reflect on the following questions. As you read, brainstorm and develop a list of concepts or keywords that describe your topic. 

  1. Does your topic or term have its own entry, or is discussion of it embedded within a larger topic? In other words, how is it categorized?
  2. Which academic disciplines are focusing attention on the topic?
  3. What disciplinary differences do you notice in the way the topic is covered? 
  4. What additional sources does the subject encyclopedia point you to?