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Encyclopedias, handbooks and companions are great ways to get background information to situate oneself within a broad topic, understand the terms used to describe some topics, and identify sources related to a particular topic. In addition to the online resources listed below, one can also do a Subject (browse) search in the library catalog: e.g. RENAISSANCE ENCYCLOPEDIAS, identifying any topic you can think of. ONLINE options can be filtered out, keeping in mind that titles available in the HathiTrust ETAS won't be designated as ONLINE.
Cambridge Collections Online
Searchable full text access to the complete Cambridge Companions to literature, philosophy, religion, and classics.
Historical Dictionaries Online
Dictionaries with timelines covering nations of the world, ancient civilizations, intelligence & security, literature, peoples & cultures, philosophy, pop culture (art, music, cinema), religion, sports, United States politics, and wars & conflicts,
Full-text of hundreds of dictionaries and other reference works in the humanities and social sciences, published by Oxford University Press.
Routledge Handbooks Online
Provides overview of classic and current research and future trends in the social sciences and humanities, while at the same time providing an authoritative guide to theory and method, the key sub-disciplines, and the primary debates of today.
Very Short Introductions
Full-text, searchable versions of several hundred paperbacks published by Oxford University Press. Each volume treats a large subject, is written by a well-known scholar (several are Princeton faculty), and includes further readings. These works provide more context on a topic than does an encyclopedia article.
Online Encyclopedias available at Princeton
We have many specialized encyclopedias covering just about every field. This links to one list (multiple pages), but is not exhaustive.
While it is not advisable to use this as a source in an academic paper, it can sometimes LEAD you to other great sources, especially on contemporary topics.
Oxford Bibliographies is another great research tool for starting out, although this resource does not yet cover all disciplines. The ANTHROPOLOGY module, for example, includes a wealth of resources listed, arranged by type and with very useful annotations. See the ARCHAEOLOGY article, with a list of additional Related Articles on the left. There is also a "Heritage Management" bibliography in the CLASSICS module, and "Cultural Landscape" and "Urban Planning and Geography" in the GEOGRAPHY module.