There are many helpful encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks in Widener and other libraries that can give you a general overview of a specific topic. You can try searching in HOLLIS for your subject (see the HOLLIS tab for finding the proper Subject terms) plus the words encyclopedias or dictionaries. Thus: “United States” AND “Intellectual life” AND (encyclopedias OR dictionaries) yields:
The Oxford encyclopedia of American cultural and intellectual history, ed. by Joan Shelley Rubin and Scott E. Casper. Oxford; NY: Oxford University Press, 2 v. Widener | RR 3627.95
Encyclopedia of American cultural & intellectual history, ed. by Mary Kupiec Cayton, Peter W. Williams. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001, 3 v. Lamont | REFERENCE | E169.1 .E624 2001 Widener | RR 3627.93
Guide to Reference is a very large searchable annotated bibliography of reference sources, print and online, arranged by subject.
Cambridge Histories Online cover 14 subject areas including General History, Regional History, Literary Studies, Philosophy and Religion.
Histoire-Hypermédia is an online guide to historical reference works, both printed and online.
Reference books on history are located in the East end of the Widener Loker Reading Room. Their catalog records can be browsed online in HOLLIS Classic by putting the call number (e.g., RR3620) in the basic Search screen and adjusting the Search Type menu to Widener call number.
In Guide to Reference choose Browse, then General Reference Works, then Biography to see an annotated bibliography of biographical dictionaries.
American National Biography is the standard American source for biographies of major figures. Can do searches of occupations and limit by date.
World Biographical Information System includes full text of thousands of biographical dictionaries accessible by name of biographee. Largely online full text, partly microfiche or print. More information.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) indexes thousands of English-language biographical dictionaries and other compendia. Not full text; one must do HOLLIS searches for retrieved sources.
Biography in Context includes full text of many reference books, including Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Black Biography, Directory of American Scholars (10th (2002) ed.), Dictionary of American Biography, Marquis Who’s Who on the Web since 1985. The Biographical Facts Search allows search by occupation, nationality, ethnicity (African-American, Asian- American, Hispanic- American, Native- American only), gender, birth/death year, and place.
Additional sources in Finding Biographical Information