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SSI1-155: Are Prisons Necessary?

Getting Started with Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias, handbooks and overviews are scholarly, tertiary works written by experts on a variety of topics. An hour spent with one or more subject encyclopedias early on in the research process will save you hours of wasted time! The background information provides a good starting point as you begin the research process. 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.  Here's what subject encyclopedias provide:

  • broad overview of a topic that is more in-depth than in general encyclopedias
  • Discussion of how scholars have approached, explored, and debated the topic over time (historiography)
  • words, phrases, names, dates, and events that can be used as keywords when searching a database
  • bibliographies in articles to find other sources (both primary and secondary); typically, these bibliographies point to just a few key sources, rather than overwhelming you with a comprehensive list.
  • cross-references to find related topics
    • Look for "see also" at the beginning or end of the article
    • Some encyclopedias highlight words in the text of the article to indicate that there is a separate entry on that topic

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 database collections listed on the right.  Use Primo to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.

Online Reference Collections

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