Flinders University Library
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Information Types

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What are Academic Encyclopedias?

  • Also called reference works.  
  • Written by academics or subject specialists and sometimes peer reviewed.
  • Not every academic field has them and some are more useful than others. 
  • Hard copy and online
  • Can contain dozens, even up to thousands of short pieces on all aspects of a topic or on all issues in a discipline. 
  • Contains definitions and explanations of different terms.

Why do I need to use them?

  • Use to understand key concepts
  • You can confidently use these resources in academic research projects.
  • Excellent way to find keywords, concepts and authors in the field that will help you find more information in library search tools.
  • Usually contains lists of useful references.

How do I find them?

  • Search Smart Subject Guides list encyclopedia in your field
  • Selected Library Research Databases
  • FindIt@Flinders Search:


Want to learn more?

See Wikipedia's own advice on using it as a tool for research:

What Are Academic Dictionaries?

  • Subject specific dictionaries are written by specialists in the field and give definitions of the language, theorists and concepts used in that discipline.

Why do I need to use them?

  • Can help to find keywords to define a topic for searching.
  • Can help understand the terminology used in academic papers and books

How do I find them?

  • Search Smart Subject Guides may list subject dictionaries
  • Search FindIt@Flinders combining a broad keyword that defines your topic with dictionary

What are handbooks, companions, casebooks, introductions & overviews?

  • Some overlap with encyclopedias but usually provide more in depth theoretical overview of a topic.
  • Often collections of overview chapters of different aspects of a subject.
  • Academic publishers may specialise in a series of this kind of series. e.g. Cambridge Companions

Why would I use them?

  • Good introduction to an academic discipline or specific field
  • To understand the theories and research in the field, who are the important authors, as well as good reference lists of the most important contributions to the field.
  • Usually academic and can be referenced in a bibilography or reference list.

How would I find them?

Search FindIt@Flinders combining a broad keyword that defines your topic with one of the folowing keywords:

  • handbook
  • companion
  • introduction
  • overview
  • casebook


Search all our guides.