Is The Encyclopedia Britannica A Credible Source?

Most students ask “is the encyclopedia Britannica a credible source?” But before that it is important to understand its history.

The encyclopedia Britannica is an English-based online encyclopedia. It is also available in printed books. It was first published by Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. in 1768.

Past owners include Scotland printers Andrew Bell and Collin Macfarquhar, Scottish bookseller Archibald Constable.

The current owner of encyclopedia Britannica is Jacqui Safra. The first six editions were written by about 100 editors and more than 4000 contributors.

The number of contributors increased as years went by.

Instead of hiring original authors, encyclopedia Britannica recruited renowned scholars who wrote and edited information on the various subjects.

Since then, the encyclopedia has gradually evolved from the Macropaedia (available in print form) to Britannica Online.

Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of objective articles covering a wide variety of subjects and topics including, astronomy, physics, language, and so much more.

Recently, the encyclopedia launched a kids’ version for children to learn about basic facts and general knowledge.

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What is a credible source?

A credible source refers to an unbiased reference that has verifiable facts. It is credible when you can fully trust it. Credible sources are part and parcel of a well-researched essay.

The sources should be well cited. There are several ways of evaluating the credibility of your source. They include,

  • Relevance-Use a source that fits the argument and question that you are writing about. Ensure your source complements your paper needs.
  • Objectivity-Evaluate the source’s bias/biases, especially in terms of subjectivity. Your source should mitigate bias by presenting the content through the rational presentation of facts and arguments.
  • Accuracy-Measures the quality and verifiability of particular source content. Credible sources present content clearly, and logically. Accurate statements include citations or final bibliography.
  • Currency-Is the content up to date? When was the last time it was updated? Your source may be accurate and relevant but still, be uncertain because it was published before crucial developments. Therefore, your source should indicate that the information is revised regularly to enhance currency.
  • Authority-It is a measure of integrity, understanding and experience of the author/authors of a source. Choose sources that have authority to ensure your essay is respected and understood by the credible figures in your area of study

What is a scholarly source?

A scholarly source is written by an expert, for researchers, faculties or scholars. They include books, journals or conference publications.

Generally, they are print-based or electronic. A scholarly source provides the most crucial information for your essay.

Also see: Is My Source Credible?

How do you tell if a scholarly source is legit?

  • Research about the credentials of the author

Most authors of scholarly sources are professors. If your source has been published by one, then you can be more confident that the subject is written expertly. Research the name of the author on the web to see the publications they have authored on different topics relating to your subject.

  • Has the author included citations for the sources in their work?

Check for citations in the scholarly source to increase the legitimacy of your essay. Avoid sources that fail to include citations.

  • Peer re-viewed

All scholarly sources should be analyzed by experts in that field. The best way of telling whether a scholarly source is authentic is by reading reviews from other scholars. They help you identify an area of weakness in that publication.


Is the encyclopedia Britannica a valid source?

No, the encyclopedia Britannica can’t be used as a valid source. The information contained in the encyclopedia tends to be superficial without in-depth details. You are supposed to use reliable and up-to-date information for your paper.

The information in the encyclopedia Britannica is not original because it contains secondary information (what has been said by others).

However, this does not mean that the source is entirely unreliable. You can get important information for your research.

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If you are researching your college essay, you have to find a valid source that is based solely on your subject. The source must have academic texts that are well-researched and cited.

Therefore, the encyclopedia Britannica is a good place to start your research, but you need to find other sources for citations.

In some instances, there are links at the bottom of each topic showing the sources of the content. Click on them to get a more valid source.


Is the encyclopedia Britannica a scholarly source?

The encyclopedia Britannica is NOT considered a scholarly source, it can only be used as a reference material as well as a tertiary source.

The content in the encyclopedia Britannica is written by academicians for an academic audience. It is edited by real editorial staff.

Use the online encyclopedia Britannica to search for all kinds of topics or subjects. There are hundreds of thousands objective articles in various areas.

The articles are of high quality, and they contain quality information.

Some of the topics covered include biographies, geography, literature, law, western philosophies, astronomy, biology and medicine.

The content is not peer-reviewed, and there is no way of telling its originality. However, not all scholarly sources are peer-reviewed.

Use the encyclopedia Britannica to expand on your knowledge and get key topics and ideas to research on.

Do not use it as your primary source because the topics are not well-researched. They give a general view.


Can the encyclopedia Britannica be used as a source for college papers?

No, the encyclopedia Britannica cannot be used as a source for college papers. It is a tertiary source and references all its information without in-depth analysis and opinions.

It is contrary to what college professors expect from their students- detailed research with academic sources. Sources for college papers should be original.

They include diary entries, reports, speeches, interviews and blogs. Citing the encyclopedia Britannica may lead them to believe that you have not engaged in extensive research.

The encyclopedia Britannica does not have this kind of information. You can only use it to get a general idea of what to include in your essay.

You will know what you are looking for because you will use the information to search for more reliable sources that are well cited.

However, depending on how detailed your research is, you can reference the encyclopedia Britannica as a primary source.

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Is the encyclopedia Britannica a reliable source of information?

Yes, the encyclopedia Britannica can be used as a reliable source of information. Among all encyclopaedias, it is the most respected because it has existed for the longest time.

Leading scholars in all fields were contacted to write entries in their areas of expertise. It is informative, knowledgeable and comprehensive.

It has alphabetical indexing that features articles, subjects, languages, topics and entities.

Although it does not go into much detail, it is a crucial platform for students to begin their research.

Additionally, the encyclopedia Britannica arranges primary and secondary references in summary form. Read on various topics and develop your key ideas.

After that, research for other valid sources where you will get the required citations.

Note: It is difficult to distinguish the actual truths from fallacies. Therefore, research on multiple sources to get a clear understanding of the subject. This way, you will write an essay that covers all aspects of the subject.


Final thoughts 

Is The Encyclopedia Britannica A Credible Source? While the encyclopedia has a lot of information, it is not considered scholarly as it does not meet the standards of the peer-reviewed source.

While you may use it as a source, some instructors may take issues with it because it is not considered a scholarly source.