An encyclopaedia is an easy-to-use reference tool found in all libraries. An encyclopaedia may be one volume and have a very specific topic as its subject, or an encyclopaedia may have multiple volumes that cover a wide range of topics. Because encyclopaedias are so easy to use and so accessible, many people use them as their first choice for a reference tool.
1. Decide if you need a general encyclopaedia or a specialized one. Most general encyclopaedias are multivolume sets and follow a similar format.
2. Examine the directions for the specific encyclopaedia you are using. Most encyclopaedias are set up in alphabetical format, but not all are. Some encyclopaedias require that you know the key word or subject heading in order to find the correct information scattered throughout a variety of volumes. Other encyclopaedias devote different volumes to different subjects.
3. Locate the index. Depending on the encyclopaedia, the index is usually in the last series of volumes and is in alphabetical order. It gives you page numbers and volume numbers to locate the article you are researching.
4. Read the article. As you do research, you can find other cross-references that can broaden your topic and provide new insight into your research. Also, pay attention to maps, graphs and pictures in the article.
5. Study the outline provided for longer articles. This is a helpful reference tool when organizing your writing.
6. Cite authors correctly. Each encyclopaedia has different methods of listing authors. This information is either in the introductory material or in the index.
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