Collections in the spotlight: Encyclopædia Britannica

Published on
March 6, 2023

As a WUR student or employee, you can access hundreds of databases and collections to which the Library subscribes. In the series Collection in the spotlight, we’re taking a closer look at exciting databases and hidden gems in our collections. To kick off the series, we’re discussing Encyclopaedia Britannica, a big favourite of Claudia Böhme, Head of Collections of WUR Library.

What makes this database so great?

Encyclopædia Britannica is a great starting point for any information search. It provides easy access to up-to-date and comprehensive information on any topic you can think of. This makes it a fantastic reference database and gateway for further research. It’s really easy to navigate and you’ll get not only textual information but also other content, such as photographs and videos. One of the key benefits of Encyclopædia Britannica, unlike Google or Wikipedia, is its reliable and objective content. All articles are written by experts and vetted through a rigorous editorial process to ensure accuracy and credibility. This makes it a trusted source for study assignments and papers.

How can I use Encyclopædia Britannica during my studies?


You can use Encyclopædia Britannica to familiarize yourself with a topic. It offers background information and explanations on often difficult topics and concepts. You can start with its topic overviews, which provide a useful summary of a subject and help you understand the key concepts and terms. From there, you can make a well-focused research question for further scientific literature search.

Are there any drawbacks?

While Encyclopædia Britannica is a comprehensive resource, it doesn’t offer highly specialised information or peer-reviewed articles on original research findings. For that, you need to use bibliographic databases of scientific literature, such as Scopus or Web of Science.

Should I cite the information?

Yes, you should always cite the sources you’re using in your texts. Every Britannica article has a citation icon at the top of the page. You can choose different citation styles, e.g., APA, Chicago. Make sure you manually check your references when editing your work, because a generated reference still often contains style errors.

What’s in this database?

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica (short articles on every topic)
  • World statistics (a database of statistical data on every country in the world, offered in print-ready tables and graphs)
  • World Atlas (Please note this feature is only available when you’re on campus or logged in through My Workspace)
  • Compare countries (Choose a country or territory from each drop-down box to compare their population, area, and other important facts.)
  • Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus
  • Primary historical source documents, such as letters and speeches (e.g., Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species)
  • Daily news reports from the New York Times and BBC News
  • Easy access to EBSCO journals and periodicals (e.g., Newsweek, American Scientist, Bulletin WHO)
  • Biographies (search key individuals by gender, era, cultural association and field of expertise)