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General Encyclopedias

The purpose of general encyclopedias is to serve as a broad reference for all knowledge. The implementation of this goal, however, will vary a great deal. The World Book is aimed at young people and so the articles are general, easy to read and understand. The focus is very broad. The Britannica, on the other hand, has in-depth articles by world-renowned experts on the subjects. Some Britannica articles are considered definitive essays on the subject being discussed.

The Americana focuses particularly on the American continent. Obviously, therefore, it would be the place to look if you want to find information on this continent. It has lots of other material, but not as in depth.

The general encyclopedias, in both the Library of Congress and the Dewey systems, are placed at the very beginning of the collection because they are the most general books in the collection. Go there, in whichever library you are using, and take a good look at the encyclopedias which are available.

Finally, go to the library's catalog and look up the term "encyclopedia." What you will find is that there are an AWFUL lot of encyclopedias in the library, but most of them focus on just one subject area. That brings us to our next subject...

Before you go, however, place encyclopedias firmly in your head, along with almanacs, as one of the first places to look for information. They are incredibly useful; don't forget about them!

NEXT: Specialized Encyclopedias

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