Britannica Online Academic Edition

Bibliographic Information: Britannica Online Academic Edition (n.d.). Retrieved from (library card barcode and pin number required)

Plot Summary/Resource Description: Britannica Online Academic Edition (Britannica Online) is an online reference source for students and information seekers of all ages, but it is particularly well-suited for middle and high school students’ curricular needs.  Britannica Online’s content and purpose parallel the content and purpose of a set of print edition encyclopedias, except the online edition contains much more data, more updated information, more special features, and many more ways to search for needed information.  Britannica Online contains information about a huge range of subjects from history and science to current events and world literature.  The website lists additional features such as: “atlas, world data, the Classics, biographies, news, multimedia, and more.”  “The Classics” are “225 works by 140 authors [which] offer an introduction to significant works of history, literature, philosophy, and science.”  There is also access to hundreds of magazines, a media collection including long-playing videos, quotations, and ebooks.

Britannica Online contains numerous ways to search for information.  There is a search field where one can type in a query.  There is an A to Z subject guide.  There are several featured subjects on the home page, where one could search around to find a topic of interest.  One could search for a specific topic or browse by subject or alphabetically or all of the above.  Britannica Online contains unique features in addition to access to the encyclopedic information.  The Britannica Online home page includes direct access to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, New York Times and BBC News, and a Britannica Blog.  One can also compare statistical information about two countries, look up a particular day in “This Day in History,” and view historic timelines on various broad topics including Childhood, Medicine, Science, and Religion.  There are also several “Spotlights,” which are special features, for example, Reflections on the Holocaust, Encyclopædia Britannica’s Guide to Black History, All About Oscar (the award), Guide to Shakespeare, and more.

Critical Evaluation: Britannica Online covers a wide range of topics with accuracy and intelligence.  Britannica Online would be a great resource for a student starting research on a particular topic.  The topic’s article would likely provide a useful overview of the topic and provide additional information about subtopics or related topics, as well photographs and videos.  For in-depth research, Britannica Online would not be sufficient as the only source, but would likely provide a significant amount of useful information at the initial stages of research.  Britannica prides itself on the accuracy and authority of its articles.  The website states, “Unmatched Accuracy and Unique Perspectives: Written by Nobel laureates, historians, curators, professors, and other notable experts, the Encyclopædia Britannica articles are trusted resources with balanced, global perspectives and unique insights that users will not find anywhere else.”  Britannica Online is subscription based, so it is available from Library websites that have subvscribed.  At least in San Francisco and San José Public Libraries, users must log in with a library barcode and pin number to access the encyclopedia, so a person without a library card would not be able to use this resource.  With user-friendly search functions and a huge breadth of information, Britannica Online is a practical and useful resource for young adults as well as all library patrons.

Reader’s Annotation: Britannica Online Academic Edition is a comprehensive reference source for information seeking young adults.  It provides accurate, current, and trustworthy information on a broad range of topics and themes.

Information about the Author: Written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert contributors

Genre: Non-fiction, Reference

Category: Online Reference

Curriculum Ties: Useful for all areas of the curriculum

Booktalking Ideas: Use an interesting bit of trivia as the answer to a question you formulate, something that none of the students is likely to know, then ask the students the question.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages, 5-14, Ages 15-19 to Adult

Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this well-known and respected reference source.

Why is this book included? Middle and High School teachers often require their students to do research for reports, projects, or writing assignments.  Britannica Online is a single source that can provide information on any number of topics to assist students with their information gathering.  Additionally, sometimes young adults are seeking information and need a more trusted source than Google, or need more information than a standard web search engine can provide, so Britannica Online serves that need.