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LCC Library

Writing Research Papers: Encyclopedias

This guide is intended to provide help with topic selection, research tips and strategies, and citing sources.

Reference Books

link to the Oxford English Dictionary online

Encyclopedias and other reference books can be very helpful, especially as you begin your research. The LCC Library has many reference books in its reference collection, and many more online.

  • They provide broad overviews of topics, and they can be a lot more reliable than websites. Encyclopedia articles are usually written by experts and scholars.
  • There are often entire encyclopedias on an individual topic, for example the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature or the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace.
  • Encyclopedia articles often recommend other sources of information, such as books and articles.
  • The LCC Library has 100's of reference books online. Word for word they are the same as when they were published on paper.

You can search more than one reference book at a time. We have 3 searchable collections: Credo, Oxford, and Gale. For more information, please visit our Encyclopedias webpage.

Wikipedia Don't's and Do's

When first exploring a topic, many people consult Wikipedia for a quick orientation.

  Many educators frown on the use of Wikipedia. Why?
  • Many students copy information from Wikipedia articles and paste it into their papers or other assignments. That's called plagiarism. 
  • Articles on Wikipedia are not necessarily written by subject matter experts. They may be inadequate, incorrect, or biased. Don’t believe what you read on Wikipedia without first finding another source to verify the information! 
  • Students sometimes reference Wikipedia articles in their papers and other assignments. Unless you are pointing out something specific to Wikipedia, it outs you as someone who doesn't take the class very seriously. For college-level research and writing, you need more comprehensive and authoritative sources.


In an academic setting, how can you use Wikipedia in a way that benefits your research process?

  • Finding keywords you can use to search for more information on the Web and in Library databases and catalogs. 
  • Scan the end of the article to see if references are provided. Some Wikipedia articles have lists of references, notes, or external links at the end that can guide you to other sources of information on the Web or in libraries.
  • Get an overview of a subject you don’t know much about.
  • Brainstorming topics and ways to narrow a topic. 
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