How to Write an Encyclopedia Style Essay

Encyclopedias provide a comprehensive overview of thousands of topics.

Writing an encyclopedia-style essay can be a fun and easy assignment if you know what you are doing. Start by checking out a variety of encyclopedias at your local library to see how articles are formatted. Each article typically includes a brief definition or description of the assigned subject, followed by a broad examination of the topic that includes a number of sub-sections. When writing your own article, remember that it should provide a comprehensive view of the subject without going into complicated detail.

Choose your topic. Make sure it's something of personal interest that doesn't demand hours of research. Consider selecting a particular animal, specific food, a country or an historical figure.

Research your topic. Confine your online research to reputable information sites and news articles. This will get you off to a solid start. Read books, or even encyclopedias, for further information. Take notes and cross-reference information to assure accuracy.

Create an outline for your article. Write a one-or-two- sentence synopsis and then list each of the subsections. For each subsection, create bullet-points of information. Here is an example featuring President John Kennedy as the subject: "John F. Kennedy was an American politician who became the President of the United States in 1961. His term was cut short when he was assassinated in 1963." Divide the article into subsections such as: Childhood, Early Political Career, Presidential Campaign, Presidency and Legacy.

Use a formal, authoritative tone. Avoid literary license or technique. Resist the urge to editorialize. Avoid using personal pronouns or addressing the reader directly. Colloquialism is inappropriate. Objectivity is the goal. Don't write this: "John F. Kennedy was born in 1917 to a wealthy Irish family. He was a sickly child, so you wouldn't have guessed that one day he would become one of the best Presidents in the history of the United States." Do write this: "John F. Kenney was born in 1917 to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Although he was sickly as a child, he was successful in school and entered the Navy in 1940."

Format your article so that it starts with the name of the topic in bold followed by a short synopsis written in regular typeface. Bold each subsection headline. Body appears in regular typeface.

Revise your article, paying careful attention to spelling and grammatical errors.

Cite your sources.

  • Plagiarizing can cause you to receive a failing grade on the paper. The more information you have about a subject, the easier it becomes to write from the heart.