Friday, August 10, 2012


Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica Online School Edition. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved from

Description: A familiar name in the encyclopedia world, Britannica’s Online School Edition offers encyclopedia entries with text, graphics, videos and photography. It allows students to create their own workspaces on the site, where they can collect articles, take notes on articles, and share their work with others. The first page allows young people to pre-select their level, elementary school, middle school, or high school The site includes a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and a World Atlas. It offers tips and tutorials on browsing and searching. On the home page of the high school level, readers will find a blog, with famous mysteries and historical facts collected by writers under a topic (“Ripper’s London and Thoreau’s New England” or “How Fast is Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt” – about the current Olympic Games). There is also a biography of the day, a “This Day in History” section, news by The New York Times’ web site, and BBC news links.  More bells and whistles include statistics and summaries, revised articles, and video clips. If I go to the Gabrielle Giffords site, I see videos, links to topics mentioned that have their own pages, a section on her husband, and a link to other sites and journals outside of Britannica. There is also a Spanish translator and a citation creator, with three citation style possibilities.

Critical Evaluation: This is an especially fantastic tool for teens who are researching people and countries. The graphics are attractive and clean despite the volume of different elements on the pages, making for easy navigation. Though the brevity of some of the pages mean that this database is great for getting a quick glimpse of a person, place or thing, but not great for in-depth research. When I’m using this one with my students and we have multiple database possibilities, I usually tell them that they should go to Britannica for a quick overview of the topic, to get their feet wet and gather search terms, and then they should go to other sites for deeper knowledge. I particularly like to use this site for research on states and countries.  The flags, maps, images, statistics and information are a real bounty for any student involved in research on a place. For biographies, too, it can be invaluable, with wonderful archival photos and neutral explanations about the person’s life. This is a great, fundamental resource for any public or school library.

Bio: Founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1968, Britannica has a reputation as being a scholarly encyclopedia. It is the oldest encyclopedia company still in operation. Although they are criticized for their coverage of certain topics or lack of attention to others, the company has retained its reputation as one of the most popular and esteemed encyclopedias.
            With the advent of the digital age, Britannica has worked hard to retain its relevance in the era of Wikipedia.

Genre: Online encyclopedia/database.

Curriculum Ties: Can be tied to all subjects.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Kindergarten up.

Challenge Issues: None.

Why Included: It’s a very useful tool for school research.

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