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Reference Sources - Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias can cover many subjects or be subject-specific. Favor the latter type, such as the ones pictured below, since they provide more material on a subject.

Encyclopedias are great sources to consult when you are beginning a paper for several reasons.

Subject-specific encyclopedias offer ideas for paper topics and for ways to broaden and narrow them.

They provide an
authoritative general introduction to a topic, including some or all of the following: dates and individuals relevant to it, the most important aspects of it, controversies relating to it, major developments associated with it, and what is unknown about it.


Encyclopedia essays often end with references to related subjects as well as a bibliography of good sources. Moreover, they often suggest good search terms since the terminology used is frequently the same as that in other sources, databases for example.

Other Reference Sources

Reference sources serve other purposes as well.

They can be drawn on for quotes, statistics, definitions, little-known facts, brief biographical sketches, etc. This material adds color and specificity to a paper, making it more interesting. Moreover, information found in reference sources can be used to support ideas and flesh them out, making a paper more authoritative and persuasive.

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