Britannica online is managed by Encyclopedia Britannica, with more than 230 years experience gathering and organizing information on thousands of subjects. The website provides limited services, like search results, for non-subscribers, while members have unlimited access to the full updated content of the 32-volume Encyclopaedia, to other publications and online services. By searching a word, users obtain also related websites, videos and media. Browsing possibilities are available for a world atlas, an A-Z index, selected topics through history. Also provided are the Merriam-Webster, a free online English dictionary with definitions, pronunciation, synonyms, etc., as well as a free e-mail newsletter containing links to Britannica articles and multimedia features. Beside its many international versions, Original Sources is available by site license to colleges, universities and libraries worldwide with fully searchable primary documents and is accessible through easy-to-navigate subject headings. The interaction with the website is facilitated by the Britannica Blog (with related forum), the RSS newsfeeds subscription and many dynamic images in the home page, somehow increasing the typical information overload. Among the recently introduced features, there are the new kids applications for iPhone, iPod and iPad.
The rich online knowledge service provided by Encyclopedia Britannica
A free information service based on the Columbia Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia.com, one of Internet’s free encyclopedias, provides users with more than 57,000 frequently updated entries from the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, and the International Social Science Encyclopedia among other authoritative sources. Each entry is enhanced with links to newspaper and magazine articles as well as pictures and maps, all provided by HighBeam Research in various formats. Info can be searched by multiple criteria. Tools like thesauri, dictionaries, almanacs, newspapers and other Encyclopedias are also provided. Resources are daily updated. Access is totally free for all kinds of users and search results can be saved, downloaded and printed without any restriction. While its graphics leaves to be desired, the website is clear and smart thanks to an interface design which uses colours to differentiate functions and utilities. Although a sitemap is not provided, a help and a FAQ file are sufficient to solve navigation and technical problems.
International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences
A leading scholarly enterprise
The International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences (IESBS) is a 24 volumes outstanding reference work. Its online version is accessible via the online database platform ScienceDirect®. The Encyclopedia contains almost 4,000 articles and 90,000 bibliographic references as well as 150 biographical entries. Articles are supported by abstracts prepared specifically for the electronic edition and put online as they become available, offering an extended preview of the Encyclopedia’s content in advance. Institutional subscription is required for full-text entry articles, while free browsing up to the abstract level, linked with a rich number of cross references, is possible also for guest users. A few full-text sample articles are also available. Reference linking takes the user from cited references within articles to the source abstract (even for non-ScienceDirect subscribers, seamless linking within ScienceDirect is supported). The IESBS web pages are part of the Elsevier website and are therefeore a mere presentation of the product. For accessing entries and retrieving material, users are automatically redirected to the ScienceDirect platform website. Advanced search features are offered for subscribing institutions and their users.
Merriam Webster Online
Merriam-Webster online Dictionary and Thesaurus
Merriam-Webster is one of the US publishers of language-related reference works. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is based on the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, 11th edition. The online dictionary includes the main A-Z listing of the Collegiate Dictionary, as well as the Abbreviations, Foreign Words and Phrases, Biographical Names, and Geographical Names sections of that book, illustrations and tables. Multiple search criteria are available and differentiated by age, i.e. in the option “Merrian-Webster” for kids. Direct link and cooperation with Encyclopedia Britannica are strongly emphasized. Each searched entry results with general metainfo and good technical description plus hypertextual internal and external connections. Even if the access is open and free for a big amount of resources and functions, full access to complete editions (Collegiate, Unabridged) requires an affiliation. Many utilities and functions are available also in multimedia formats, as well as simple search features. Several trial forms are available such as the one-day free trial to the complete Webster collections (dictionaries, encyclopedia, etymologies, atlas, etc.), the 14-day trial to the full edition of the Merriam Webster Unabridged version, or the free (only for institutions with free samples for all) 30-day preview of the 3rd International Dictionary.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A comprehensive and international reference project
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) is a dynamic reference work satisfying high academic standards. Maintained by a group of experts in the field at the University of Stanford and with 3 mirror sites in the world, it is based on an asynchronous activity of updating and peer-refereeing. SEP collects hundreds of articles mostly philosophy-centered but covering a comprehensive set of topics. Its website gives access to the SEP “fixed editions”, which are the successive versions of the encyclopedia updated, modified and compiled on a quarterly basis. SEP also shows two kinds of tables of contents: entries that are published or assigned, and entries which are still unassigned but nevertheless projected. All materials are available entirely free of charge and with very high updating rate, usually on a weekly basis. An added value are the cross-references among the edited concepts and entries, as well as by pertinent connections to external websources. Special sections explain how to cite this encyclopedia and offer detailed editorial information. A simple search feature is provided to locate entries, which can be saved on screen or downloaded by a SEP offprint mode. Thanks to a simple interface design and a textual mapping, this website represents an authoritative research tool for philosophers and human scientists.
The Encyclopedia of Marxism
An open-access, volunteer-based encyclopedia on Marxism
The Encyclopedia of Marxism is a free, volunteer-based, bottom-up online encyclopedia, created by an International group of discipline experts and grown with the help and support of users. It has a complex hypertextual architecture enabling users to move from a definition/idea to another with semantical and structured associations. An internal search engine, powered by Google, provides also star-rated metainfo to indicate the pertinence and the quality of the retrieved resources. Glossaries, keywords directories and links are also provided and users can navigate among pictures, archives and quotations. Despite its lack of academic or institutional authority, the encyclopedia provides useful and rich data upon a relevant historical and political topic. All contents and concept descriptions are freely accessible and can easily be saved and downloaded. The entire website features a clear and easy interface design and content organization, with no need for specific aids. The encyclopedia’s pages and contents are provided in many different languages and released under a Creative Commons license.
The Free Dictionary
An integrated free search engine, thesaurus and encyclopedia
The Free Dictionary is an integrated and free engine, which compounds different encyclopedias, thesauri and dictionaries, whose contents are provided by different and well-known sources. It includes English, Medical, Legal, Financial, and Computer Dictionaries as well as Thesauri, Acronyms, Encyclopedias, a Literature Reference Library, and a Search Engine. Resources are well organized and for each keyword multiple-entry detailed descriptions – provided also with info and meta-info – are available. For each concept or word searched internal and external links plus various definitions are displayed. The amount of free resources available is very high and for Political Scientists there is a Legal Dictionary, plus internal and external references for the Political Science domain. Info are very frequently updated. Some access limitations (a subscription is required) exist only for the Hutchinson encyclopedia, which includes multimedia contents. The website is not difficult to understand and navigate, but there are not many help tools for non-expert users so that the considerable amount of info may be difficult to understand immediately. The interface design allows for a great interaction with contents thanks to the hypertextual nature of all words included in a definition and to the ?Free tools for surfers?, enabling a good level of customization and interactivity.
The World Factbook
Online version of the well-renowned CIA data research
The World Factbook is a publication of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): a concise but comprehensive national-level information and data on countries, territories and dependencies, with maps and detailed information on the geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for countries worldwide. The Factbook printed version is an annual publication, but the online version is updated periodically throughout the year. Country reports are in fact updated also thanks to comments, corrections and data sent by users by e-mailing the staff. The section Notes and Definitions provides the policy of the publication about each entry, its meaning, definition and content, so that a methodological explanation of the choices made is available. Only the current version is available online for browsing and simple search on the CIA website. It is also downloadable in zip format, free of charge in its full-text version. This website and its publication offer a good and simple starting point for data research about countries worldwide.
A global community effort for a free, user-generated encylopedia
Started with the English-language version in January 2001 as an expansion of the previous Nupedia, the project soon reached an international nature and involvement. After six years, more than 174 Wikipedias are active around the world; the English version includes almost 3,800,000 entries, the other major ten languages (French, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, etc.) have between 400,000 to 1,355,000 entries — all of them rapidly growing. Each article, and related editing, is written only by volunteers on a variety of subjects – from society and culture to science and technology – and can be enriched and updated at any time. The global success of this initiative is based on its open and collaborative nature, along with the many tools and features gradually introduced in the project, including “featured articles”, the neutral point of view policy, navigation templates, and dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and arbitration. Despite some controversies about authors’ expertise and credibility, this on-going project has quickly become the symbol of free knowledge sharing and building enabled by the digital era. Structured as a traditional entry-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia is searchable by entry or topic and hypertextual links are extremely used, any time that a word corresponds to an edited entry. All contents can be saved, read and distributed under the GNU GPL license.