An encyclopedia is a reference work which provides summaries of knowledge from a particular discipline. Encyclopedias are usually divided into articles or entries which are arranged alphabetically and are longer and more detailed than dictionary entities. The descriptions provided by encyclopedias focus on factual information about topics rather than on linguistic features.
The origins of encyclopedias date back to 2,000 years ago. Over the years, they have evolved considerably for their language style, size, intent, cultural perceptions, readership and technologies for their production and distribution.
Nowadays, due to the technological development, encyclopedias can be found both in a print and digital version.
There are four elements that define an encyclopedia: its subject matter, its scope, its method of organisation, and its method of production.
Considering the subject matter, encyclopedias can contain a general description on topics concerning various areas. General encyclopedias usually focus on guides on how to do different things, as well as embedded dictionaries and gazetteers.
The purpose of an encyclopedia is to create a group of knowledge around a specific topic. Additionally, two are the methodologies adopted to organise encyclopedias: the alphabetical method and the hierarchical methodology. The former is the most used, above all, in general works.
Finally, the methods of productions of encyclopedias and the methodologies behind the collection, verification and presentation of information have changed due to the digital development.
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