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Christian Theology at Georgetown College: Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

This guide will assist research and reading for the Georgetown College theology curriculum.

About Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

These titles offer short (usually 1-2 page) articles on various persons, topics, events, and concepts. They are arranged alphabetically, and provide concise introductions to important topics in a particular discipline, and a selected bibliography of the most important works for further study. 

Recommended Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

This is not an exhaustive list of religion-related Reference and circulating materials, but some of the best LRC holdings for theology projects.

Start with the subject-specific dictionary or encyclopedia that is most focused and relevant to your particular topic, subdiscipline, era, or person. For example, if writing on Benedict of Nursia, begin with the Encyclopedia of Monasticism or the Dictonary of the Middle Ages rather than the Encyclopedia of Christianity. Generally, when a work is more narrowly focused, it provides a deeper level of information for each entry.

Subject-specific dictionaries and encyclopedias accomplish two very important things for researchers:

  1. They provide all of the current, concise, relevant information about a topic so that when a reader moves on to the arguments found in books and essays or articles, she will already know the keywords needed to find the right resources and understand the jargon that will make the material intelligible. .
  2. They provide carefully selected bibliographies with the best and most important primary and secondary works related to a topic, which guides a reader into the literature so that less time is spent evaluating works that might be less relevant or well-argued.

When you pick your topic, be sure to search the library catalog for "handbooks," "companions," "dictionaries," and "encyclopedias" that relate to your topic.