Encyclopedias – OHIO University Libraries

Encyclopedias are useful in several ways:

  1. getting background info on an unfamiliar topic, and/or
  2. finding quick facts
  3. finding sources for further research

Here’s an example, from the Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, of sources for further research at the end of the article on “Adaptation”:

The information given in lists like this should be enough for you to be able to locate the original publications, whether online or in print.

You should NOT rely on ANY encyclopedia as the ultimate authority for your research. Articles in encyclopedias are starting points, not ultimate goals, in the research process.

Subject Encyclopedias

General encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia and World Book, cover all subjects. For more complete, authoritative articles on a topic, you may wish to try some Subject Encyclopedias.

There are literally thousands of encyclopedias–both in print and online–devoted to specific subject areas. Here are a few sample titles:


  1. Encyclopedia of global warming and climate change
  2. International Encyclopedia of Communication Online
  3. The Oxford companion to Shakespeare

We also of a large collection of subject encyclopedias (and other reference works) called the International Encyclopedia of Communication Online. It contains well over 100 different items. You can search the entire collection or individual titles within it.

Finding Subject Encyclopedias

Here are two ways to find Subject Encyclopedias for various fields of study:.

Do a Subject Search in ALICE, with encyclopediasadded at the end of the Subject Term, e.g.,

  1. climatic changes encyclopedias
  2. communication encyclopedias
  3. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 — Encyclopedias

Collections of Encyclopedias

We subscribe to two large sets of online reference tools (encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, etc.) that let you search hundreds of volumes all at once.