History & Historiography   Tags: historiography, history, hst, hst 300, primary sources  

An introduction to researching history and historiography at PSU.
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2015 URL: http://guides.library.pdx.edu/history Print Guide RSS Updates

Background Information Print Page

Encyclopedias, Handbooks, and Bibliographies

Reference sources, sometimes called tertiary sources (to distinguish them from primary and secondary sources), are a great way to start your research in a new subject area. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and bibliograhies can help you brainstorm research ideas, give you an overview of your topic, and and point you to the most important books and articles. It's like Wikipedia, only professor-approved, more extensive, and (usually) more scholarly. 

Traditionally encyclopedias were available only in print, in the reference area of the library. While we still have many in print, you'll also find these resources online through the library, in ebooks and databases. 

Please ask a librarian when you need help tracking down the best background information. 

Online Subject Encyclopedias

A subject encyclopedia provides in-depth information about a specific topic. Entries or articles, written by scholars or subject experts include bibliographies or suggested readings that will lead to more information on your topic.

You can use subject encyclopedias for basic background reading or to identify keywords.


  • Sage eReference  

    Contains full text encyclopedias and reference books in the social sciences and humanities. Search by keyword or browse by topic.

  • Oxford Reference Online  
    Full text subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference and handbooks in all disciplinary areas. 100

Search for Subject Encyclopedias (PSU Only)

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Oxford Bibliographies Online

These scholarly, annotated bibliographies are an excellent resource! We have bibliographies in Atlantic history, Classics, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Medieval Studies, and Renaissance and Reformation. Each of those subject areas has hundreds of articles, all providing lists of recommended secondary, and sometimes primary, sources. 

  • Oxford Bibliographies Online  

    Includes scholarly bibliographies that provide research guidance in several topical areas. Our current subscriptions area Atlantic history, classics, Jewish studies, Islamic studies, Medieval studies, Renaissance and Reformation, British and Irish literature, cinema and media studies, education, communication, linguistics, philosophy, public health, childhood studies, and social work. 


Cambridge Histories Online

History Research Guides

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