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Why Look for Specialized Reference Books?
Specialized encyclopedias can be an excellent source for an introduction to a subject. They can also help you focus your interest to a topic within a larger subject area. For example, instead of trying to write about a large subject like "posttraumatic stress disorder" you might browse in the Encyclopedia of Trauma and Traumatic Stress Disorders and decide to focus your interest on the use of "imagery rehearsal therapy" in treating PTSD.
Specialized encyclopedias are a great source for key terms you can use to search for further information on your topic. Key terms can include names of people associated with a subject, specialized terminology used to describe concepts in that subject, names of organizations, and so forth.
Specialized dictionaries can help you interpret scholarly books and articles by defining terms used in a field. Scholarly literature usually includes a lot of specialized terminology.
Finding Specialized Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
- Use the search space in the Search for Books box on this page.
- Type a word that describes your subject with "dictionar*" or "encycloped*."
art AND dictionar*
The asterisk (*) is a truncation character that tells the computer to find any word that begins with "dictionar" or "encycloped." That is: dictionary, dictionaries; encyclopedia, encyclopedias, encyclopedic.
- In the list of results, the location of a physical book, including the call number, follows Available at. The book will probably be in the Reference section, shelved according to the call number.
- In the list of results, an electronic book will be distinguished by Online access. Click the Online access link to view the book.
If the library does not have a subject dictionary or encyclopedia on the specialized subject, try a slightly broader search. For example, if your topic is emeralds, you will find that Chemeketa has encyclopedias of gemstones, but no dictionaries of gemstones. You might try a keyword search for "mineral* dictionar*" to help you find a pertinent dictionary.
Note on the Library Search
If you use the library search with a scope that includes articles in the results (such as the default search), articles in reference books appear in the results. They are identifiable by the resource type Reference entry printed under the icon to one side of the result list item:
The Full Text Available links for some reference entries connect to the database at the book level. You will then need to repeat the search within the book to find the reference article.
Getting Reference Help
- E-mail a Question to Reference
- Phone Reference at 503.399.5231
- Chat reference: Please use the form below
- We recommend that you include an e-mail address so that you can receive a transcript of your chat and so the library can send you any followup help.