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Why Use Encyclopedias?

Historical research is very detailed and it may be difficult to narrow down your research topic into a subject that can easily be researched in one semester.

When beginning your research, encyclopedias are a great place to start. Offering short, concise entries, subject encyclopedias and dictionaries provide a broad overview of your topic while introducing you to the most important facts, people, and places relating to it. This will help you focus your research topic and begin formulating a search strategy.

Hint: Use the keywords found in the encyclopedia entry as possible search terms when searching the library catalog or electronic databases.

Useful Online Encyclopedias

You can use online encyclopedias to help you get started with your research. Even though you should not use these encyclopedias as citations in your research papers, reading brief encyclopedia entries can aid you in deciding what events and people are related to one another, and which you should explore in more detail.

General Online Encyclopedias:

Encyclopedia Britannica

Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (access through Literary Reference Center)

  • Type (JN "Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition") into the first search box and then use the second box to search through the publication


History-Specific Online Encyclopedias:

Ancient History Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia Smithsonian | History & Culture

Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History

Oxford Reference Online (Free access to Subject Overviews and Timelines)

Selected Subject Encyclopedias