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University Library


Online Reference Collection

Use reference resources like encyclopedias and dictionaries for quick access to reliable facts.

Searching for Resources

Below are tips on how to find dictionaries and encyclopedias relevant to your research. If you are trying to find a different resource or are having trouble, please feel free to use our chat Ask A Librarian service or email us!

If you would like further or more specific help please contact one of the University of Illinois's library subject specialists. They can give you more detailed advice on how to find the resources you need for your research. 

Search Reference Sources

This search box is made to search some of the reference resources we've been mentioning so far in this guide. Find articles in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference books by keyword or heading.


To search for dictionaries:

  1. Start on the Library homepage and then scroll down until you see the large orange "I" icon with the words "U of I Collection" underneath it; click on the "I."
  2. Search for "dictionary" along with any keywords related to the type of dictionary you need. For example, if you want a French to English dictionary try searching for "French English Language Dictionary"
  3. You can narrow the results to only online resources by going to the right side of the page and selecting "Available online" under Availability. You can further narrow your search by selecting the Subject Area of the dictionary you are looking for. See below for where to find this. There are other filters on this left side too, so feel free to explore! 

    A screenshot of searching "French English Language Dictionary" in the library catalog to show where "Available Online" is.

  4. You may need to sort the results by "Date-Newest" for these types of resources to get the most recent information. This option is in the dropdown box next to "Sort by" under Tweak Your Results on the left side of the screen, just above "Availability" in the screenshot above. 


Encyclopedias are great sources for background information. Like Wikipedia, the Library's encyclopedia collection covers a broad range of topics; however, encyclopedias have some clear advantages over Wikipedia: 

  • All of the articles are written by experts in the subject area.
  • The entries can only be updated by authors or other experts chosen by the editor.
  • The bibliographies or additional sources that accompany the articles will provide you with other credible sources you can use.

So even though Wikipedia can be a good place to begin, encyclopedias are more trustworthy and reliable. You can search for encyclopedias the same way you can for dictionaries (see instructions above).