Critical Comparisons, by Ellen Wolock, Ed.D.
This article is also available PDF format, with illustrations.
Comparing the 2002 Encyclopedias
From pet care to world events, there's no better place to quickly find information than a CD-ROM Encyclopedia. Thousands of articles, along with photos, video, sounds, maps and timelines instantly bring topics to life. For 2002, you've got the "big four" to choose from: Britannica, Encarta, Grolier and World Book, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Which one is best for you? Read on to see how they stack up.
Which encyclopedia has the most information?
Which encyclopedia is easiest to use?
Britannica, Grolier, World Book and Encarta have easy-to-use search features, although each has both strengths and weaknesses. World Book's searches are generally relevant, yet it's easy to miss info if you use a keyword search. We couldn't find "Small Pox," for example, until we tried a topic search. This year's version of Grolier is much better than last year's, taking you right into the search features without potentially confusing options. We also appreciated the rolodex-like menu that lets children easily switch between Text, Media Gallery and Related Articles. Searches bring up the closest matches in a list, but do not automatically show the article (another click is necessary)-- a minor weakness (Britannica also has this problem). Encarta has excellent searchability and also lets children easily access related media and articles. Searches bring up vast quantities of matches, however, which is both a plus and a minus when kids are doing the searching. A search of "Native American Art," for example, yields 120 relevant results. Britannica's searches, in contrast, come up with too many unrelated options. A search by "miniature horse" for example, brings up 2,858 articles, although the bulk of these are unrelated. We never did find specific info about the little horses.
Which encyclopedia uses the most multimedia?
Which encyclopedia works best with kids?
While reading levels vary within each encyclopedia, in general, Grolier and Britannica are more technically written than the others, making them best for teens and adults. World Book offers the easiest to understand, kid-friendly text (perfect for the elementary crowd) while Encarta is somewhere in between (appropriate at any age level).
How do the encyclopedias use the Internet?
Which encyclopedia is the best buy?
WHAT IS A GERBIL? -- (A
Comparison of how the same topic is described in each
Encarta-- "Gerbil, common name for any of several small, burrowing rodents that have soft, sand colored fur, a mouselike face, and long hind legs that enable them to leap about like rodents such as jerboas and kangaroo rats."
Grolier-- "Gerbils, family Cricetadae are soft-furred, burrowing rodents inhabiting arid regions in Africa and Asia."
World Book-- "Gerbil, pronounced JUR buhl, is any of a group of furry, rat like rodents, most of which have long hind legs and a long, hairy tail."
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