1. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. This encyclopedia offering from a respected and seasoned encyclopedia company (they’ve been sharing knowledge since 1768) has an attractive cover page. The cover page contains a “What’s New” section, “Daily Features,” “News,” and even a link to the “Britannica Blog.” You can also access a dictionary and thesaurus from this page. A search here requires that you choose a content source, with some sources only open to paying members. I chose to search the term “jellyfish.” As a non-paying member my search defaulted to the “Concise Encyclopedia” option. My search returned nine results which turned out to be brief summary articles, although some photos were included. (Note: You can get a free seven-day trail membership by entering a credit card number. The membership price is $69.95 per year.)
2. High Beam Encyclopedia. This is a free encyclopedia. The home page allows for alphabetical browsing and contains links to other research sources. It also lists the most popular searches. This tool searches across multiple sources. According to the About page, when you search here you are searching across 35 million documents. It does not appear to have any unique material. When I searched the term “jellyfish,” the search returned 46 results. The original sources for the results varied from The Columbia Encyclopedia, to A Dictionary of Zoology, to related articles from newspapers and magazines. This can be a great research tool to find multiple sources of information quickly.
3. msn Encarta. This is Microsoft’s encyclopedia contribution. It’s geared to eduction with cover page links on everything from elementary eduction to continuing education. The home page also has links to other tools such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, a world atlas, quizzes, and more. A search on the term “jellyfish” brought up ten related articles with photographs. The search also listed links to the term “jellyfish” in the related online dictionary. (Note: some articles are only available for MSN Encarta Premium subscribers. The cost for the premium service is $29.95 yearly.)
4. Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a favorite among the internet savvy. It’s free for usage and available in ten languages. A major drawback, however, is that the source is open. This means that anyone who can access the site can change the information. This can result (and has resulted) in misinformation. A search on the term “jellyfish” resulted in an article with 12 subheads (including subheads for related links) and photographs. Wikipedia can be a good place to start for the casual researcher, but it should not be used as an only source or for formal research purposes.
What about you? What is your favorite encyclopedia? Do you like one I haven’t listed? Write and let me know.
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.