BIO150Y Optimal Information Foraging  

Finding Information: Books and Encyclopaedias

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Why use a book?

Books When you have to write a paper on a topic that you are not familiar with, books and encyclopaedias are excellent starting points. Many are written for an undergraduate audience and give a general overview of a topic, which enables you to focus on a specific aspect that interests you.

In contrast, journal articles and Web sites tend to cover very specific subjects. Use books as a springboard to a more focused journal and Web site search.

Use a book:

  • for an overview of a topic

  • to put your topic in context with other important issues

  • to find historical information

  • to find summaries of research to support an argument

Why use an encyclopaedia?

Encyclopedia Encyclopaedia articles are short, factual entries that are often written by experts in a field. There are two types of encyclopaedias:

  • General encyclopaedias (e.g., AccessScience) These provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics.

  • Subject encyclopaedias (e.g., Encyclopedia of Bioethics) contain in-depth entries focusing on one field of study. A growing number are available on the Web.

Use an Encyclopaedia

  • when looking for general information on a topic

  • when looking for background information on a topic

  • when trying to find key ideas, important dates or concepts

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