Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Many subject encyclopedias are now available online as e-books, but paper still works! Use whatever best suits your topic, regardless of medium. Below are the large collections of e-reference materials we have that cover history:
CQ Press Library
Search or browse resources on the American government, current affairs, history, politics, public policy, and data analysis for the social sciences. Database Guide
Encyclopedias and dictionaries on a wide variety of subjects.
Gale eBooks (formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library)
Online encyclopedias in all subjects, especially good for anyone wanting background on "Working Americans," see the History
eBook and eReference content alongside SAGE Video, containing over 4,600 titles. Content includes reference works, academic books, professional development titles and more.
Why find Background Information
Background information, often found in subject encyclopedias, can provide valuable information that can save you time. Subject encyclopedias are encyclopedias dedicated to one theme or subject, and thus the information provided can be more in depth than that found in general encyclopedias, which must cover all subjects. Subject encyclopedias can provide:
basic facts and figures on a topic
overview, putting topic in context
search terms (names, concepts, processes)
help you raise questions or a thesis about a topic that you will answer in your paper
bibliographies of key works on the topic
Finding Subject Encyclopedias
You can use any library catalog (CMU Catalog, Worldcat, Pittcat) to find subject encyclopedias. Just search encyclopedias as a subject term and combine that with a relevant keyword. For Example:
No, not every topic may have a relevant subject encyclopedia, but many do and can save you time and effort. You can also search the subject encyclopedia collections listed under "Subject Encylopedias." Of course reference librarians can help you find relevant subject encyclopedias, too-just Ask a Librarian!