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History 200 (Prof. Katherine Smith): Subject Encyclopedias

Research strategies and resources for students in History 200

Using Subject Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias and other reference resources are excellent places to start your research! You usually can expect to find the following important information in articles in subject encyclopedias:

  • An overview of the topic, with key individuals and events identified, and often some mention of how the topic has been studied (historiography).
  • Cross references to give you a sense of the boundaries of the topic and its relationship to other 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.
  • Identification of primary source materials.
  • Bibliographies of key secondary literature (books and articles) on the topic.
  • Scholarly editions of primary sources may be listed in the bibliography.
    • The main body of the article may mention key primary source writings and their author(s).
    • Some encyclopedias include excerpts of primary source materials.

Broad Overviews


Subject Encyclopedias: Medieval History

Renaissance & Early Modern Europe



Liaison Librarian for History

Peggy Burge's picture
Peggy Burge
Collins Library 119

Guides to History Research & Writing