The two most important factors in determining an encyclopedia's value are its content, and the ease with which users can find the content they are looking for.
Content. We asked our kids reviewers to give us three examples of recent problems where they could have turned to an encyclopedia for help, producing these test searches:
- What is the difference between mitosis and meiosis?
Compton's: Bingo! Compton's provided a detailed answer to this middle school student's question. Terminology was a bit technical for this age group, however.
Encarta: Bingo! Encarta provided a detailed answer to this question, including a nicely done animated video illustrating the differences.
Encyclopaedia Britannica: Bingo! Britannica provided the answer on our first search, in an article on Cell Division.
Grolier: Bingo! Grolier provided a clear explanation for each process, and a short instructional video.
World Book: Bingo! World Book quickly produced the answer to this question.
Excite! Bingo! First search on the words "mitosis meiosis differences" produced a link to the University of Arizona's Bioogy Project, which included an excellent tutorial on the Cell Cycle, including QuickTime videos of both processes.
- How many Federal officials have been impeached in US history, and how many were convicted?
Compton's: An article on impeachment mentioned several federal officials impeached, but no complete listing or accounting was found.
Encarta: Very brief article on impeachment provided no help in answering our student's question.
Encyclopaedia Britannica: Article on impeachment mentioned Andrew Johnson's run-in with the Tenure of Office Act, and Richard Nixon's resignation in the face of Watergate -- but no answer to our question.
Grolier: A surprisingly incomplete article on impaechment was supplemented by a direct link to the answer online, in Encyclopedia Americana.
World Book: Bingo! The first line of the article on the history of Impeachment in the US told us the answer.
Excite! Bingo! Excite led us to SuperKids' own story on the history of impeachment which summarized the 15 cases and seven convictions.
- What is a liger and how does it differ from a tigon?
Compton's: Dead-end. No listings for liger or tigon.
Encarta: Dead-end. No listings for liger or tigon.
Encyclopaedia Britannica: Bingo! A simple search using the words "liger" and "tigon" gave us the answer, plus the information that these hybrids probably only occurred in captivity.
Grolier: Dead-end. No listings for liger or tigon.
World Book: Partial credit: World Book noted that lions and tigers had mated in captivity, and that their offspring were variously called ligers and tiglons -- but provided no further information..
Excite! Partial credit: a quick search for the words "liger tiglon differences" produced several pages that noted that a tiglon was the hybrid product of a male tiger and a female lion -- but nothing more. A quick jump to Funk and Wagnalls Online Encyclopedia however, confirmed our suspicion: a liger was the hybrid offspring of a male lion and and female tiger.
Ease of Use. SuperKids asked our kids reviewers to give these titles a test run. Their conclusion: all are reasonably easy to use, and selection of a favorite was a matter of personal preference and grade level, rather than superior design. Here are several key differences you may want to consider.
Compton's: Allows Boolean (AND, OR, NOT, ADJACENT, NEAR) searches of the full text of all articles, and by media type. Purple background may be difficult to read on some computers. Double-click on any word to see definition.
Encarta: Search by article topic or keyword, using Boolean search parameters across all or specific media types. Also includes a wizard for less experienced users. Integrated dictionary. Large gray type bothersome to some.
Encyclopaedia Britannica: Installation of the deluxe version provided a surprise -- the user must first install Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 to use the program. The standard version uses Netscape's browser. Go figure. Using Britannica is very much like using a search engine on the Web, but targetted at a single source -- the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Grolier: Allows title browsing and simple Boolean search combinations (AND, OR, NOT) of full-text of all articles, and by media type. Media and text must be sequentially viewed. Dictionary access via toolbar or keystroke combination - not by clicking.
World Book: Allows title browsing and simple Boolean search combinations (AND, OR, NOT) by article, paragraph, sentence, or heading. Media and text must be sequentially viewed. Double-click on any word to see definition.
Excite! With an experienced web searcher, this was pretty quick work. But finding the real answers isn't always obvious, and the danger of running into inaccurate or misleading sites (and pornography) is real. The CD encyclopedia are honestly easier to use.
Now jump to the reviews, or read about a different type of kids encyclopedia.
back to top of page
Questions or comments regarding this site?
Copyright © 1998-2016 Knowledge Share LLC.