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Melissa Vetter, Subject Librarian

Biology, Psychological & Brain Sciences and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Subject Librarian (Olin Library)

General Background Information

As you begin your research, learning more about fields of study relevant to your focus will help you create more effective searches. The Washington University Libraries  own many general and specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries that provide this background information.

Listed below are some general reference sources and databases of encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Generating Ideas - Some Popular Places to Search

Specialized background information

After gaining basic background from a general encyclopedia, consider looking for more in depth background information in specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias.  Reading relevant entries from a subject-specific encyclopedia will provide more sophisticated context, concepts, and vocabulary in given fields, thus helping you expand and refine your search terms.

Look up subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries in the Libraries' Catalog by adding the word "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries" to your keyword search.  For example, to find a psychology encyclopedia you could perform the following search in the catalog:

Select Reference Sources by Subject

The titles below are a mere sample of all the subject encyclopedias available.  Some are in print and others are online. 

If you want to look for more, just add the word encyclopedia to your keyword search in the Catalog.