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Finding Encyclopedias & Dictionaries


  • CUAA has physical and electronic dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference books.
  • Search for these books in Primo Search and subject-specific databases.
  • Find subject-relevant options on the books tab of your subject guide.
  • There are different ways to search entries in e-books (see below).

Why Use Reference Books?

This short video covers the main reasons you should start your research with an encyclopedia or other reference book.

5 Reasons to use reference books (2 min)

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries in Primo

Search Primo for encyclopedias & dictionaries.

  1. Search Primo for some keywords and the word “dictionary” or “encyclopedia”Primo search box with biology dictionary text inside
  2. In the search results, under Resource Type, choose Book or Reference Entry in the filters.

There are 3 possible locations inside the library: CUAA Main stacks, Reference, or Online

Online book in the Primo search results
book result with Reference underlined with red under Available at
book result with book (main stacks) underlined in red under Available at

Note: CUW Reference Books are for in-library use only. 

Using Electronic Reference Books

Online encyclopedias & dictionaries come in a few formats.

  • Most online encyclopedias & dictionaries will provide an alphabetical table of contents. Open the list and select an entry: 
  • Table of contents with show subsections link marked in red

Searching Databases with Encyclopedias

The following databases also contain encyclopedia entries.

Literary Reference Center

To find entries, use the same search technique as Primo:

Advanced Search for civil war in the first box and encyclopedia in the second box

Then, click on an entry title from the search results.

Again, it might be helpful to filter your source type to Reference books:

Source type filter with reference books checked
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