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History 200 (Professor Neighbors)

Why Use Subject Encyclopedias?

An hour spent with one or more subject encyclopedias (a type of tertiary source) early on in the research process will save you hours of wasted time!  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:

  • a 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)
  • cross-references to find related topics

Online Subject Encyclopedia Collections

If you're not finding what you need in the subject encyclopedias above, continue your research by consulting these collections of subject encyclopedias.  If you have any difficulties at all, please email Peggy Burge for assistance and recommendations.

Tips for Using Subject Encyclopedias

Think broadly about your research topic.  You may find it useful to create a concept map of related people, groups, events, and themes.  For example, suppose you are interested in exploring the consequences of China's one-child policy.  You might find it useful to peruse a variety of subject encyclopedia entries on:

the one-child policy
sustainable development
adoption in China
orphans and orphanages in China
China Center for Adoption Affair
fang-shou campaign cycle
population growth
Great Leap famine
filial piety

As you explore the connections between these ideas, you'll start to see potential research questions for your paper.

Recommended Subject Encyclopedias