Evaluation and Selection of a Reference Resource


The World Book Encyclopedia was the main source of information for all research projects when I was an elementary student. Is there still validity in maintaining a set of current encyclopedias? I will evaluate the merits and limitations of the print version and consider the selection of a digital version of the World Book Encyclopedia. My personal motivation for choosing this resource stems from observations in my middle school that both the print and digital World Book Encyclopedia are sorely under-utilized.

(Assignment 1: if preferred a PDF Version)

Assignment 1 PDF Version

Evaluation of a Reference Resource

Regardless of a student’s grade level or educational goals, information literacy skills are vital for developing critical thinking, informed inquiry, application of knowledge and personal growth.  Throughout the process of gaining information literacy skills, students must be immersed in high quality references and resources.

To ensure student access to high quality resources, it is imperative that teacher-librarians regularly conduct evaluations of their current resources while seeking out new sources. Several criteria should be considered when conducting an evaluation but above all, a “good reference source is one that serves to answer a question” (Riedling, 2013, p. 17). As suggested by Riedling (2013) in “Reference Skills for the School Librarian”, one must consider the following:

  • Content Scope
  • Accuracy, Authority and Bias
  • Arrangement and Presentation
  • Relation to Similar Works
  • Timelessness and Permanence
  • Accessibility and Diversity
  • Cost      (p. 22-23)

One such reference source that requires regular review is the print encyclopedia. Harber (1988) differentiates between encyclopedias and dictionaries with the following definition: “dictionaries are for quick reference and [encyclopedias] are for reading at greater length” (p.20) in other words, “the entries in an encyclopedia [are] words relating to things, and entries in a dictionary [are] words relating to words” (p.20). Encyclopedias can be classified according to the way the material is organized, either alphabetical or topical.

When evaluating an encyclopedia, Harber recommends the careful consideration of the following criteria:

  • “the work must be up to date, frequently and systematically revised according to high standards of scholarship and authority
  • easy enough to read for students to use it
  • little to no evidence of bias or prejudice
  • physical appearance of the volumes and the lay out of the pages are important (example: “double-page spread with large colour illustrations covers a single topic on at least two levels of difficulty”) (Harber, 1988, p.20)
World Book 2004
World Book 2004

(image retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/2004-WORLD-BOOK-ENCYCLOPEDIA-SET/dp/B000NPPDLI)

One encyclopedia to consider is the World Book, which has been the ‘go-to’ for elementary encyclopedias. As stated by Elvekrog (2014), students can easily retrieve reliable and current information that has been “reviewed to reflect accuracy and authenticity by expert scholars and researchers” (p.211). In addition, publishers continue to make an effort to include “up-to-date, full-color illustrations, images, and photographs which complement the articles, along with a distinct font, and durable, high-quality paper” (p.211) to appeal to ages six through adult. In addition, newer volumes such as the World Book Encyclopedia 2014 includes “QR codes so smartphone users can effortlessly access further content to dozens
of topics” (p.211).

To assist in the review process, a rubric was created based on the criteria outlined in pages 71-74 in Riedling’s (2013) book “Reference Skills for the School Librarian” and various sample rubrics based on the acronym C.R.A.A.P.O. which stands for:

  • Currency
  • Relevancy
  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Purpose
  • Objectivity

Evaluation of World Book Encyclopedia 2004 (Print):

(See Appendix 1 for Evaluation Rubric)

My Rubric for Print Reference Evaluation

My Rubric for Evaluating Reference Source

Reference Source Evaluation Rubric


The articles related to chosen topics and were appropriate for the intermediate reading level. The information “reflects student interests and the cultural interests” (Asselin, 2003, p. 32).


World Book does provide information and answers to many questions in an efficient manner. There was no evidence of any overt propaganda or advertising. The articles appeared objective and free of any biases (political, religious, ideological or personal). In regards to the accessibility of information due to layout and font size, I found some pages to be excellent with colourful images, illustrations and helpful maps. However, other pages were completely devoid of all colour and contained row upon row of small font. I can imagine how children would be completely turned off from the challenge of picking out key facts from such small print.


Unfortunately, it is difficult to maintain a current collection. Our library has two complete sets: 2004 and 2012. Riedling (2013) suggests encyclopedias need to be replaced every five years (p. 24). Upon close inspection of the 2004 set, the publishing dates of many of the resources listed under “Additional Resources” fall between 1992-2000. (between 17-25 years old)

Curricular Connection:

Even with the recent changes in the BC Curriculum, the new topics were accessible. World Book offers information on a wide variety of topics that would be of interest to students as they pursue inquiry projects.

Efficient Use of Library Space:

Considering the emphasis on student inquiry, the World Book offers a lot of information in a relatively minimal space. I would suggest that two sets are not necessary, though, and the 2004 set can be recycled to free up additional space. The physical accessibility, however, is a bit of a challenge for younger or shorter students. The heavy volumes are placed on the top of a 5’ bookshelf. (Asselin, 2003, p. 32).

Selection of a Reference Resource

Although print encyclopedias have merit and should be included within a school library, outdated sets should be updated every five years (Riedling, 2013, p. 24). The print version of World Book Encyclopedia 2016 is currently listed at $899.95. Because of budget constraints, digital versions are a great alternative.

To access the digital resources in my school, students click on the school website and then find the link to the library. The school’s library website is not user-friendly and is certainly not appealing to students. Very few students (or teachers) even know the digital resources are available, not to mention the passwords needed to access the resources. My goal is to increase exposure and usage of this excellent resource.

Existing Library Page
Existing Library Page

Both Prince of Wales School Library Learning Commons and Dr. Charles Best School Library have excellent websites that are user-friendly and informative and could serve as models for updating our own library site. The image below shows a screen shot of the various encyclopedias available for student use.

Prince of Wales Website
Prince of Wales Website

Screen shot Retrieved from http://pw2.vsb.bc.ca/library/refdesk.html#encyclos

Upon close inspection, the World Book Online is an excellent source. When evaluated using the rubric, (see Appendix 2) this resource would meet the needs of the student population. Features that I particularly liked and found helpful for student use were:

  • MLA or APA citations listed at the bottom of each article
  • Tutorial videos
  • What’s New pages to easily identify updates and revisions
  • Images, audio and video links
  • Visually appealing layout with text that is appropriate for elementary reading level

(Appendix 2)

My Rubric for Evaluation of Digital Source
My Evaluation Rubric Highlighted for Suggested Reference


World Book updates and revises regularly, however, these revisions are quite minor and can be accessed in the What’s New page.

Evaluation of Suggested Selection:


The information is accessible to the entire student population. The digital features allow for more individualized consideration of the “needs of linguistically, culturally, intellectually varied learners and learners with special needs” (Riedling, 2013, p. 23). I appreciated the audio feature for each article as this would greatly assist students with lower reading ability.


The purpose to inform is clear. No ads or pop-ups appeared nor was any overt propaganda or bias apparent. The layout of the pages is excellent, with ‘clickable’ tabs for additional images and video. The use of white space helps your eye to focus on the important information.


Because of the ease of updating information digitally, the online version remains current. The What’s New pages quickly identify what articles have been updated. I investigated the cost and the World Book is included in the EBSCO bundle (with Destiny) through our independent school association. The yearly cost for the complete bundle is not much more than the cost of purchasing only one set of encyclopedias, making this a worthwhile investment.

Curricular Connection:

This is a great asset for student inquiry projects and teacher research. Topics in the new BC curriculum are covered in depth as the user is able to select the grade level, province, subject area to view the BC Curriculum. What a cool feature!

World Book Online Curriculum Connections

Efficient Use of Library Space:

With only a digital device and internet, very little library space is required and students are also able to access the World Book anywhere.

(For my additional comments regarding Riedling’s (2013) suggestions for general encyclopedias, in order of my favourite to least favourite) (pgs. 76-77)

Resource Evaluative Comments and Observations
Encyclopedia Britannica Kids


  • Able to select appropriate resource according to age level
  • Search tips available
  • Results are easy to view with clear layout, images to click
  • Articles reveal a Table of Contents for quick search of relevant information
  • Citations in several formats are listed
  • Price?
Surfnetkids Online Encyclopedia
  • Advertisement popups appear immediately
  • More difficult to navigate as the site is not solely an encyclopedia (other features include games, colouring pages, calendar, blogs, shop…)
Grolier Online (Scholastic)
  • Two age categories are available (ages 3-7; ages 8-12)
  • Unfortunately, the contact information (via email and phone number) had been changed but not updated on website so price information was not available


  • ·Geared more to adults
  • Advertisements pop up
  • Hierarchical organizational structure with difficult layout and higher reading level

CRAAP Test Worksheet

CRAP Test Worksheet
CRAP Test Worksheet

Retrieved from: http://legacy.juniata.edu/services/library/instruction/handouts/craap_worksheet.pdf

Lewis Library CRAAP Test for Websites
Lewis Library CRAAP Test for Websites


Retrieved from http://libraryguides.ccbcmd.edu/ld.php?content_id=14159296

Sample Evaluation Guide

Lewis Library CRAP Test
Lewis Library CRAP Test

CCBC Library. (Dec., 2016). Evaluate It!: C.R.A.A.P. Criteria. Retrieved from http://libraryguides.ccbcmd.edu/evaluate-it/craap [Date accessed January 15, 2017].


Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D. (Eds.). (2003). Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Library Programs in Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Association for School Libraries.

Bauman, C. (Dec. 30, 2013). [Video file]. The CRAPpy Song (aka, the C.R.A.P. Test Song). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMaLgec2XWY [Date accessed: January 16, 2017).

Beeghly Library. (n.d.). The CRAAP Test Worksheet. Juniata College. Retrieved from http://legacy.juniata.edu/services/library/instruction/handouts/craap_worksheet.pdf [Date accessed January 15, 2017].

Byerly, G. & Brodie, C.S. (2007). Fifty Nifty Websites: Choosing them was Fun! School Library Monthly, 23(9), 39-41.

CCBC Library. (Dec., 2016). Evaluate It!: C.R.A.A.P. Criteria. Retrieved from http://libraryguides.ccbcmd.edu/evaluate-it/craap [Date accessed January 15, 2017].

Elvekrog, J. (2014). The World Book Encyclopedia 2014. Catholic Library World, 84(3), 211.

Glenbard High School Library [website]. (n.d). Evaluating Sources. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/glenbard.org/diglit/home/evaluating-sources  [Date accessed January 15, 2017].

Harber, P. (1988). French-Language Encyclopedias. Manitoba Library Association. A Reviewing Journal of Canadian Material for Young People, 16(3). Retrieved from https://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/cmarchive/vol16no3/frenchlanguageencyclopedia.html [Date accessed January 15, 2017].

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2015). From sea to shining sea: Online resources for states projects. Teacher Librarian, 43(1), 60-63,67. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/1721912889?accountid=14656 [Date accessed January 15, 2017].

Mongtomery, B. (2014). A Case for Browsing: An Empowering Research Strategy for Elementary Learners. Knowledge Quest, 43(2), E5-E9. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/NovDec14_OE2_Montgomery.pdf

Ron E. Lewis Library. (2016). Thinking Critically about Web Information- Applying the CRAAP Test. Retrieved from http://library.lsco.edu/help/web-page-rubric.pdf [Date accessed January 16, 2017].

Rowly, J. & Johnson, F. (2013). Understanding trust formation in digital information sources: The case of Wikipedia. Journal of Information Science, 39(4), 494-508.

Southern New Hampshire University Library: Shapiro Library. (2016). CRAAPO- Source Evaluation Rubric. Retrieved from http://libguides.snhu.edu/ld.php?content_id=13078862 [Date accessed January 16, 2017].

Wexelbaum, R. (2012). Is the encyclopedia dead? Evaluating the usefulness of a traditional reference resource. Reference Reviews, 26(7), 7-11.

World Book Encyclopedia Store. [website]. Retrieved from https://www.worldbook.com/store/p/399-World-Book-Encyclopedia-2016.aspx


2 thoughts on “Evaluation and Selection of a Reference Resource

  1. Yvonne: Curiosity killed this cat! After the Tuesday night hangout, I had to take a look at your assignment. Your list of references is extensive and I can tell that you did a heck of a lot of research on your topic and your writing indicates a high level of understanding and clarity. I too reviewed the World Book Encyclopedia (2011) edition and recommended a digital replacement (The Canadian Encyclopedia). I guess great minds really do think alike! Great job – very informative and thorough!


  2. Whoa! This is an awesome assignment, it is SO thorough in my opinion and I learned SO much from you! Your evaluation is extensive and I appreciate so much that you attached such detail to your assignment – everything from the screenshots to the list of your favourite online encyclopedias. I will be definitely telling my teachers about this at the next lunch and learn at our school! Well done!


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