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WGSS: Scholarly Research on Gender and Sexuality: Overviews and Encyclopedias

A Library Resource Guide for Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

What are encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and reviews for?

Find background information on the topic

Subject encyclopedias can be invaluable as you begin to explore your topic.  They give you a summary of research that has been done on the topic as well as explain terms and concepts that you're likely to run across.  Many of the entries will also include bibliographies that point to important research in the field.

NOTE: Encyclopedias are not the place to look for new research on a topic.  They can take years to publish, and their focus is on established research and understandings.

Handbooks provide information on a topic in an easy-to-use form.  This can include data, procedures, methodologies, facts about organizations, and historical events.  These tend to present quick answers to questions rather than a comprehensive overview.

Subject dictionaries give concise and accurate definitions of terms in that field.  This is extremely important if you're researching a topic in which the same term may have multiple meanings in different contexts.

Reviews are articles that sum up the history of research on a topic and give you the current state of understanding.  These have extensive bibliographies that will point you to influential papers on the topic.

Annual Reviews

Long articles on the history of study of a particular topic. Annual Reviews leads you to the most important and most read articles on your topic.

Encyclopedias, Handbooks, and Dictionaries