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ENGL 102

Chat with a Librarian


Live text chat is available 24/7/365. When OC librarians  are not available, you will be connected to one of our partner librarians from another college or university, who can help you in many ways.


Why start with encyclopedias?

One of the best ways to work smarter instead of harder in research is to begin with a good background understanding of your topic. The overview provided by a reference resource (encyclopedia or handbook)  will help you refine and narrow the focus of your research and writing and it will provide you with keywords you need to search effectively. 

Search the Library Catalog

Another way to find background sources is to search for your broad topic and add encyclopedia in the main library search box.

For example, "mental health AND encyclopedia."

Encyclopedia Collections at OC Libraries


Wikipedia can often offer useful background information on a research topic, but generally, Wikipedia is not an appropriate source for college papers. Early in your research process, Wikipedia can be one way to collect some good keywords and background information and the article's references can offer credible sources to advance your research.

Don't ignore Wikipedia as a possible resource but engage with the articles critically and cautiously. 

Note- Librarians around the world (and here at OC) are working to help make Wikipedia as useful and accurate as possible with the #1Lib1Ref twice-yearly campaign.  

Subject-specific Encyclopedias

There are different kinds of encyclopedias. Subject encyclopedias are scholarly sources written by subject matter experts and will:

  • Provide context for your topic
  • Identify keywords, notable figures in the field, and key concepts
  • Offer references that can provide more information

Examples of subject encyclopedias