Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is

As the Internet's premier collection of online encyclopedias, provides you reference entries from credible, published sources like Oxford University Press and Columbia Encyclopedia.

At, you get free access to nearly 200,000 reference entries from sources you can cite. Plus, more than 50,000 topic summaries feature related pictures, videos, topic summaries, and newspaper and magazine articles from around the world. also provides innovative tools that allow you to rate and sort the reference content you find to be the most useful.

Other Web sites that allow anyone to rewrite reference entries can be fun. But when you need credible information from reliable sources you can cite, ( is the place to go.

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What are the best ways to search

Searching effectively at

We simplify the process of finding encyclopedia entries with two easy ways to search:

  • Enter keywords in the search box
  • Browse by selecting a letter of the alphabet

Search with keywords

Because the words you type in the search box are what looks for in its database of reference entries and articles, choose your search words carefully. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use quotes around multiple-word search terms where certain words are more meaningful when they’re considered as a whole (e.g., "Golden Gate Bridge").
  • For search terms with multiple words, try inserting “and” or “or” between words that don’t necessarily need to go together (e.g., Auto and Transportation).
  • When using a person’s name for a search term, it’s often effective to list the last name first (e.g., Washington George).
  • If your search gives you unexpected results, make sure there isn’t a typo in the search term.
  • If your search term has too many words, that may broaden the variety of results you get back instead of making those results more specific. This is because our search engine uses relevancy (i.e., the number of times a search term appears in a specific document) as its guide when scanning the database. To get more precise results, it’s often best to use only the most important words and consider using quotes or instances of “and” or “or” as noted above.

Browse the alphabet

Just like printed and bound encyclopedias, contains a volume for each letter of the alphabet. Simply select a letter to browse subjects and find what you want.

Note that when browsing for a person’s name, it’s often best to start with his or her last name if you can’t find what you’re looking for using the first name.

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How are search results sorted? displays search results in a list where the results that are the most relevant to the search term are shown first. Relevancy is based on the number of times a search term appears with the article the search result represents.

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How do I cite entries from The Columbia Encyclopedia?

Title: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
Published: New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
Notes: Last Update: April 2008.
Citation: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
Online Ed.: © Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press. Published by HighBeam Research, Inc. (Terms of use).

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How do I send comments or feedback to

We welcome your feedback about Whether you found something about the site that was particularly useful or whether you ran into a problem we might be able to improve, we’d love to hear from you. Share your input with our Web team by using our site feedback form.

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