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Specialized Scientific Encyclopedias
This guide gives some examples of the specialized scientific encyclopedias in the Gerstein collection. While instructors often discourage the use of encyclopedias, we recommend them because of the detailed information which is useful and efficient during the initial stages of research.

Why use a specialized encyclopedia?

Special encyclopedias in electronic format
Special encyclopedias in paper format
Why use a specialized encyclopedia?

  • They concentrate on specific topics within a discipline (e.g., nutrition, chemistry, and
  • They contain descriptions, definitions, histories, and statistics
  • They have extensive bibliographies that list other useful materials on the topic
  • They offer more detailed and comprehensive information on specific topics than
    general encyclopedias
  • They are great starting points for research topics that you are not familiar with

Listed in this section are specialized encyclopedias available in the reference section of the Gerstein Science Information Centre.

Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (aka Kirk-Othmer) TP 9 .E685 1978
25 volumes plus one volume index

Topics include agricultural and industrial chemicals, chemical engineering, drugs and cosmetics, food and animal nutrition, and plastics - just to name a few.

Look up and compare the discussion of Vitamin C in:

Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology
(specialized encyclopedia)
Encyclopaedia Britannica
(general encyclopedia)
-Refer to Vol. 24, p. 8 -Refer to Vol. 12, p. 403
-Length: 30 pages -Length: several paragraphs
-Additional References: more than 150 -Additional References: none

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Dictionary of Scientific Biography Q 141 .D53 1981
16 volumes plus two-volume index

Not strictly an encyclopedia, this dictionary also serves as an excellent starting point for research topics in the scientific disciplines. This guide is designed to make available reliable information on the history of science, both by scientist's name and by topic. All periods of science from classical antiquity to modern times are represented. Though published in 1981, this remains authoritative and well respected.

Look up and compare the discussion of Aristotle in:

Dictionary of Scientific Biography
(specialized encyclopedia)
Encyclopaedia Britannica
(general encyclopedia)
-Refer to Vol.1, p. 250 -Refer to Vol.1, p. 555
-Length: 31 pages
-Content: Greek philosopher's life and
fundamental works are included
-Length: several paragraphs
-Content: brief description of Aristotle and his major works
-Additional References: more than 100 -Additional References: none
-Refer to the Index volume (vol. 16, p. 24) which reveals the philosopher's influence during certain time periods (e.g., Renaissance), and on the works of other scientists (e.g., Democritus, Eudemus)

Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition TX 349 .E47 2003
10 volumes including index

This guide is a substantial and updated source of information in the areas of food science and nutrition. In addition to examining the scientific and technological aspects of food and nutrition, other related areas of food science that are covered include politics and ethics, business and trade, law and order, and humanitarian efforts. An expansive indexing and cross-referencing system allows you to locate your specific topic by keyword or text content.


Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition QP 141 .E526 1999X
3 volumes

This reference source examines all aspects of human nutrition, including clinical applications. Topic coverage is quite extensive, ranging from nutrition policies in developing countries to pregnancy. Depending on the topic, each entry ranges from four to 48 pages in length and contains relevant articles, as well as suggestions for further reading.

Although the above two sources share some similarities in their content, there is a significant distinction. To compare the two sources, look up the discussion of Caffeine:

Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition
(specialized encyclopedia)
Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition
(specialized encyclopedia)
-Refer to Vol. 2, p. 745 -Refer to Vol. 1, p. 206
-Length: 6 pages -Length: 8 pages
-Content: basic chemistry of Caffeine (i.e. structure, composition, reactivity) is the main focus -Content: greater emphasis is placed on the physiological and health impacts of the compound (e.g., impact on nervous system)
-Additional References: 4 -Additional References: 9

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Special encyclopedias available electronically

Electronic encyclopedias can be accessed through the Gerstein Home page http://www.library.utoronto.ca/gerstein/ as follows or by clicking on their titles below:

  • Click on the Resources link in the black bar near the top of the page
  • Select e-Reference Sources underneath the "Search e-resources by category" section of the page
  • At the "Electronic Reference Sources" page, you can browse by clicking on any of the letters from the alphabetical tool bar or by typing in the name of the encyclopedia in the search box. See the list of titles below.

Note: electronic use of some of these encyclopedias may be restricted to U of T students, staff, and faculty. In these cases, there may still be a paper version; see the list of paper encyclopedias below.

The following are a sample of specialized encyclopedias that are available online.


AHFS Drug Information

CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics

Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Encyclopedia of Bioethics

Encyclopedia of Biopharmaceutical Statistics

Encyclopedia of Chemical Physics and Physical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Chromatography

Encyclopedia of Clinical Pharmacy

Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition

Encyclopedia of Life Sciences

Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Technology

Encyclopedia of Public Administration & Public Policy

Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

Encyclopedia of Virology

Lange's Handbook of Chemistry

STAT!Ref Electronic Medical Library

Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry

Wiley Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology

Wiley Encyclopedia of Molecular Medicine


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Other special encyclopedias

Listed in this section are specialized encyclopedias available in the reference section of the Gerstein Science Information Centre.

Title Call Number
Burger's Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery RS 403 .B8 2003
Comprehensive Handbook of Psychotherapy RC 480 .C593 2002
Comprehensive Polymer Science QD 381 .C66 1989
Dictionary of Inorganic Compounds QD 148 .D53 1992
Dictionary of Organic Compounds QD 251 .D495 1996
Dictionary of Organometallic Compounds QD 411 .D53 1995
Elsevier's Encyclopaedia of Organic Chemistry QD 251 .E47 1946
Encyclopedia of Acoustics QC 221.5 .E53 1997X
Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry QD 71.5 .E52 2000
Encyclopedia of Analytical Science QD 71.5 .E53 1995X
Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics QB 14 .E53 2001
Encyclopedia of Bioethics QH 332 .E52 1995
Encyclopedia of Biostatistics RA 409 .E53 1998
Encyclopedia of Chemical Reactions QD 155 .J3
Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology QA 76.15 .E5
Encyclopedia of Environmental Biology QH 540.4 .E52 1995X
Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology RC 802 .E5 2004
Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemical Analysis QD 131 .E5
Encyclopedia of Medial Devices and Instrumentation R 856 .A3 E53 1988
Encyclopedia of Microbiology QR 9 .E53 1992
Encyclopedia of Molecular Biology and Molecular Medicine QH 506 .E534 1996X
Encyclopedia of Neurological Sciences RC 334 .E54 2003
Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety HD 7261 .I44 1998
Encyclopedia of Pharmaceutical Technology RS 192 .E53 2002
Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology Q 123 .E497 2002
Encyclopedia of Reproduction QP 251 .E53 1998
Encyclopedia of the Human Brain QP 376 .E586 2002
Gale Encyclopedia of Science, The Q 121 .G35 2001
Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia QL 45 .G813
International Encyclopedia of Psychiatry, Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Neurology RC 334 .I573 1983
McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Q 121 .M3 1997X
Names, Synonyms and Structures of Organic Compounds QD 291 .N36 1995X
Nature Encyclopedia of the Human Genome QH 447 .N38 2003


This guide prepared by Cindy Poggiaroni, Gerstein Science Information Centre, July 2004

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