Findings

In the multi-volume category, Britannica was the standard. It had the most coverage of Korea, and its articles were written by named authorities, not nameless editors, as is the case with many reference works. Britannica did not have the highest rating in all categories, for example, it did not have as many visuals as some of the other encyclopedias, but it received the highest overall point total.

Americana, published by Grolier, was the leader of the second tier of encyclopedia. Two factors were similar to Britannica --- named authors and use of the standard romanization. Americana dropped in points because its romanization was not always according to the standard romanization. Americana did not have as much total volume of material on Korea as Britannica did.

The remainder of the multi-volume category of encyclopedia were rated with similar point totals although each had strengths and weaknesses. There was a tie for third. Collier's had a higher word count than Americana, but had a notable drop on the accuracy scale and contained no bibliography. Grolier's had a lower word count but a higher accuracy score and visual and bibliography scores.

Only one point behind the third place tie was World Book, a text with mid-range scores in most areas. Tied for sixth were Compton's and the Encyclopedia of the Third World. Compton's strong point was visuals; it rated highest in that category, but it had the lowest rating in accuracy. The most recent edition of the Encyclopedia of the Third World that we could find was quite old (raising questions about whether it is still being published).

The single-volume encyclopedia were not significantly different from one another, with the exception of the Webster pocket edition that was significantly lower in points because its was a much smaller book than the others. None of these texts scored high on the accuracy scale. All of the texts contained a few mistakes that could have been avoided with more attention to accuracy.

The student and children's encyclopedia were difficult to evaluate because the reading levels were quite diverse. The Merit Student Encyclopedia was not significantly lower in reading level from that of World Book. Yet, because of the word "student" in the title, and because of a significantly lower word count, we put it in the student/children's category. It had by far the highest word count in that category, and perhaps skewed the portrayal of the other student encyclopedia. There might have been a difference in the results if we had separated the student category into "secondary level texts" and "primary level texts." Certainly the level of reading and sophistication varied widely in this category. We did not make that division between student and children's because they did not; we accepted each work's own definition of itself. In reality, the Merit Student Encyclopedia dominates the class on the basis of word count and visuals; in all other regards, the ratings are fairly tightly grouped.

The lower three children's encyclopedia were so simple and carried so little on Korea that they could not really be evaluated with the others. One, for example, carried only an article on Korean kite-making. There was nothing about the country, the people, the history or anything else of significance. The three were extremely juvenile in their approach, so much so that they could not be evaluated with the others in any significant way and thus they are merely listed at the bottom of the student category.

Special topic encyclopedia treated such topics as religion, archaeology, and ethnic groups in America. These works were of varying quality. The Encyclopedia of Religion was outstanding; again, the primary quality was linked to the fact that it had articles by named authors. It also had an outstanding bibliography that was annotated in detail; the only one like it in all of the works evaluated in this report. Another in this category was perhaps the poorest of all the reference works we evaluated. Its romanization was a clear indicator of the sloppiness of the text. The romanization was completely without system and showed influence of French as well as English transcription rules. The content was similarly jumbled.

Evaluating the yearbooks provided a surprise. We anticipated top ratings for Britannica, since it was our top-ranked encyclopedia, but we found the Europa Yearbook to be superior in our point system. On closer examination, we found that the Europa Yearbook is a compendium of tables of important facts, more than it is a summary of the events of the past year. All the other yearbooks were tied to a multi-volume encyclopedia and summarize the events of the past year. Europa was more like an almanac (or a who's who); a collection of valuable and useful data, but not tightly connected to the events of the year that had just passed like the other yearbooks.

Overall, the accuracy level, one of our greatest concerns, was quite high. Some references suffered from being out-of-date, whereas others were current. Those that portrayed Korea in some negative ways were often out-of-date or sloppy. The best of the texts presented a large quantity of highly accurate and up-to-date information about Korea.

Printed Reference Works