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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Online Reference Collection

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

Search for Resources

Below are tips on how to find dictionaries and encyclopedias relevant to your research. If you would like further 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.


To search for dictionaries:

  1. Start on the Library homepage and then click on the Catalogs link in the blue bar beneath Easy Search.
  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 Dictionaries".
  3. You can narrow the results to only online resources by going to the right side of the page and selecting "Electronic" under Format. You can further narrow your search by selecting the Subject Area and Genre of the dictionary you are looking for.
  4. You may need to sort the results by "Newest First" for these types of resources to get the most recent information. This option is in the dropdown box next to the other narrow search options.


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.

You can search for encyclopedias the same way you can for dictionaries (see instructions above).