Are print encyclopedias better than Wikipedia?


There has been a lot of discussion on college campuses across the country regarding the scholarly merit of Wikipedia. Interestingly, Nature did a study comparing Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica and found that the error ratio is pretty similar.

Whether in print or online, encyclopedias are a good place to begin research. The purpose of such a resource is to provide a brief synopsis of a topic. Encyclopedias can help you find search terms, background information, and the like to help locate more SCHOLARLY SOURCES.

This is why most college/university professors don’t accept references to any format of encyclopedia in student work (note: specialized encyclopedias written by experts in their field may be an exception to this rule); though many professors do encourage students to use them as a jumping-off point for beginning their research.

Another great place to start your research is Milne Library’s new resource, CREDO Reference. You can find a link to CREDO Reference on Milne Library’s main web page. Try it out for yourself!

About Bonnie J. M. Swoger
Science Librarian at SUNY Geneseo, a small, public liberal arts college. I am interested in scientific communication in general and how we teach students about how scientists share information.

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