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While the internet sources such as WIkipedia are often your first stop when you are unfamiliar with a topic, academic encyclopedias and dictionaries that the libraries subscribe to can be a better starting point for research for your courses.
These overviews are generally relatively short and easy to read and follow, and it's always a good idea to look at a couple of different sources from different places to get the best picture. In addition to offering reliable and authoritative background information on issues and topics, they can lead you to sources by experts in the field.
Encyclopedia of Life Sciences
Spanning the entire spectrum of life sciences, it is a primary resource for researchers, students and teachers. Search for your species using the specific "Genus/Species" search.
Science Reference Center
Science Reference Center provides easy access to full-text science content including encyclopedias, reference books, periodicals, web sites, pictures, illustrations, audio clips and video clips. Includes ability to limit by lexile reading levels.
Provides access to hundreds of online reference books including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and books of quotations from a variety of publishers. Covers both general reference and subject-specific reference titles for a variety of disciplines. Topic Pages give great background overviews on subjects.
Full-text encyclopedias and dictionaries.
Oxford Reference contains full text dictionaries and encyclopedias from the Oxford University Press. It is easy to search and contains entries on a wide array of topics from business, computing and environmental science to art, biology, literature, religion, and political science.