The best way to get to know your topic is to read about it in a reference resource such as an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias provide an overview of a topic that is based on facts and written from a neutral point of view. Topic entries vary in length and scope of information. The editors of print-based encyclopedias usually enlist subject experts to write topic pages. The best encyclopedia entries will identify the author and their credentials, plus contain a list of references at the end for further reading.
Online, freely accessible resources, such as Wikipedia, can contain entries written and edited by anyone - regardless of subject expertise. The only way to determine the accuracy of an entry in Wikipedia is to verify referenced information from the original source. Learn to use the References section at the end of topic pages to track down the sources listed. Not all references can be accessed freely on the web; check with your friendly neighborhood BCC librarians to track down books and/or journals referenced in any Wikipedia topic.
BCC provides access to two online encyclopedia collections: Gale Virtual Reference Library and Credo Reference. These differ from Wikipedia in two ways:
Gale Virtual Reference Library provides access to 175 subject specific encyclopedias, reference sets, and dictionaries. Subjects include history, business, the arts, literature, medicine, science, the nation and world, social sciences, plus many other topics. Click on the icon to get to the main search page.
Wikipedia is the 'go-to' reference resource for many people. Don't forget: despite the best efforts of numerous editors who provide oversight for this resource to encourage quality information, entries in Wikipedia can be edited by anyone - making accuracy of the information questionable! Use Wikipedia to gain broad familiarity of your topic as well as to "mine" the content for sub-topic ideas and keywords for future searching in more verifiable sources, such as books, journals and high-quality websites. Click on the icon to get to the main Wikipedia search page.