Focus on Reference


Reference encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesauri remain some of the most valuable tools that aid in the completion of student research projects. While libraries will undoubtedly continue to display the print editions of these resources, companies continue to develop new annual versions of reference software, new editions of trusted favorites on CD-ROM, and subject-specific reference software with more enhanced features than the print incarnations. Electronic reference resources may also behoove students who wish to conduct research from the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to going to the library, where the checkout of most reference materials is prohibited. This month's Focus On presents the electronic versions of many reference industry favorites.

Both students and parents can benefit from the installation of a computerized dictionary and thesaurus on their PCs. Merriam-Webster offers two products in one: the complete Collegiate Dictionary and Collegiate Thesaurus in a fully searchable electronic format. The package is available in both an electronic edition and a deluxe audio edition. The content includes more than 215,000 definitions, over 340,000 synonyms and related words, 1,000 color illustrations designed to expand understanding, and audio pronunciations that improve verbal communication (offered on the deluxe audio edition). Twenty-one search options are available, including a spelling search that enables users to locate words according to how they sound, an advanced Boolean search, and a wildcard search to answer complex questions. A Go Online menu links users to a vast array of Web-based resources, and a bookmarking feature saves and retrieves entries for future reference. The program installs easily onto a hard drive, eliminating the need to insert the CD-ROM when looking for a word. It is also instantly accessible anytime, even from other programs.

In addition to a multimedia electronic encyclopedia, World Book offers users the opportunity to subscribe for a year to their online service, which provides access to World Book's online Research Helper, Back in Time articles, clicks to related Web sites, and the Behind the Headlines news research tool. World Book 2001 offers a Mac edition, as well as a deluxe, premium and standard edition for Windows. Every article from the print version is available, plus thousands of articles not contained in the print set. Additional features include pictures, sound clips, 360-degree panoramas, maps, a highlighter tool, sticky notes, a distance calculator, a surf the millennium feature, and a free one-year subscription to World Book Online. Users may also find the Report Wizard, Timeline Wizard, Chart Wizard, Quiz Wizard and Web Page Wizard very helpful when conducting research.

Another trusted encyclopedia publishing company offers a deluxe CD-ROM version that incorporates customized tools and a redesigned user interface with rich content. The Britannica CD 2001 Deluxe Edition includes the complete text from the Britannica 32-volume print set, plus articles that are unavailable in print. The content of the 2000 Britannica Book of the Year is also included. More than 8,500 photos, maps and illustrations are featured, as well as the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition. Direct access to, Britannica's Web navigation information service, is possible with the Deluxe Edition.

Package features include an Ask Britannica tool, and a search engine that recognizes words, phrases or questions. A Compass provides an interactive view of the world, from a global to a local view. Timelines examine the effects of people, events and discoveries on world culture, from 14 categories, such as music, sports and technology. The Analyst tool allows users to customize reports, graphs and tables comparing data between nations and regions. The Context Bar keeps searches focused on exactly what the user is looking for, highlighting features where there is related information. Spotlights are unique in-depth multimedia presentations that capture history and wonders in the physical world. The Research Assistant can help users create reports and presentations. Users can write themselves notes and attach them to an article.

Encarta offers a complete reference solution, including an atlas, English dictionary, and two editions of encyclopedias on CD-ROM. The Encarta Encyclopedia 2001 features comprehensive articles, Web links, videos, animations, pictures and audio clips that help bring information to life. The Web Center seamlessly extends searches to include information found on the Internet, and Encarta Today integrates current information from the Web to the Encarta home screen. The software provides two ways to search for information: via the MS Natural Language Search, which lets users ask questions and type in phrases to perform searches, and the Pinpointer, which recognizes words the user is typing and finds all related terms and articles. Another useful feature called Text to Speech provides audio playback of highlighted text.

The Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2001 is an expanded version of the 2001 Encyclopedia. Its timeline includes more than 3,000 historical events, and the content includes 8,000 additional articles. In addition, software archives chronicle historical events from 1938-1999. Two added features include the Researcher, a tool that makes it easy to collect and prepare information for reports, and the Homework Center, which features a report writing guide. The Encarta Interactive World Atlas 2001 displays flat maps, eight times the detail of previous editions, 21 customizable map styles, and a Place/Name Switch option that allows users to view local place names on a map. The World Compare feature provides side-by-side comparisons of information on different countries. Finally, the Encarta World English Dictionary 2001 provides 10,000 new head words and 18,000 new audio pronunciations, an updated 2001 almanac, and an updated MS Press Computer/ Internet Dictionary that contains definitions for computer and Internet-related terms.

Librarians and teachers of U.S. History can now provide their student researchers in grades 6-12 with powerful resource tools for exploring the events and effects of American armed conflict. War Collection Media Packs from ABC-CLIO Schools contain an in-depth print edition and a companion interactive CD-ROM. Both formats are packed with custom maps, primary source documents and entries written by top history scholars. Students can examine the political, social and military contexts of various wars. The Media Packs have textual, visual and audio primary source materials; an image-based timeline that highlights leaders, battles and events; compelling biographies; background articles; and hundreds of entries. An easy-to-use, interactive interface builds research and information management skills. Users can search the CD-ROM through the glossary by media type and by theme. Student-customizable electronic files for class and online presentations are also featured. Titles that are available include the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, the Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, the Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, 1492-1890, the Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War, the Encyclopedia of the Korean War, the Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, and the Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War.

--Sabrina Tillman

Contact Information

Collegiate Dictionary
Collegiate Thesaurus

Springfield, MA
(413) 734-3134

World Book 2001
World Book
Chicago, IL

Britannica CD 2001 Deluxe Edition
Chicago, IL
(800) 323-1229

Encarta Encyclopedia 2001
Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2001
Encarta Interactive World Atlas 2001
Encarta World English Dictionary
Redmond, WA
(425) 882-8080

War Collection Media Packs
ABC-CLIO Schools
Santa Barbara, CA
(800) 368-6868

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.

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