Encyclopedic article: characteristics and structure.

An encyclopedic article is a text that follows the traditional format used in encyclopedias. These articles have the particularity of concisely dealing with individual issues autonomously. Its function is to provide an overview of the selected topic to inform a wide range of readers.

In this sense, the encyclopedic article differs from other academic texts by its “popularization.” Academic articles are written for researchers, scientists and students in the subject area. Instead, encyclopedics are designed for the general public. These serve to make a first approach to a topic.

These summaries or compendiums of existing studies have a long tradition of about 2000 years. The word encyclopedia is derived from the Greek enkyklios paideia that translates general education. Originally, it referred to a circle or complete learning system, that is, an integral education.

At present, the encyclopedic article is very popular in the world of virtual networks. Electronic encyclopedias are more interactive, accessible and interesting.

The texts are not accompanied by images, animations, videos and music. In addition, they offer advanced search options and Internet links.

Characteristics of an encyclopedic article .


The encyclopedic article is descriptive. The information contained in them is longer and more detailed than what can be obtained in most dictionaries.

Unlike these, which focus on language and words, the focus of this type of text is the description and explanation of the concepts or facts to which they refer.


Generally, the encyclopedic article is the product of people with expertise and experience in the subject matter. In many cases, expert academics work together to investigate and organize encyclopedias without errors. Its objective to achieve is objectivity and neutrality in all topics.

Also, these articles have high reliability when compared to other sources of information. The reason for this is that they are subject to permanent evaluation. Among the tools used to evaluate them are statistics, periodic reviews and editing.


The encyclopedic article is often used as a reference source. Therefore, their style and organization should allow an effective search.

If they are very extensive, it is very common for information to be divided into several sections. The author must ensure that the reader finds the desired knowledge quickly and easily.

Also, the language used in these articles is simple. This includes both vocabulary and sentence structure. The use of a simple vocabulary also implies the use of precise definitions.


The information presented in an encyclopedic article can be of various kinds. The type and breadth of the material may also vary. Similarly, the range of the audience to which it is aimed is usually quite wide. Articles are written for users of different educational backgrounds

In addition, each text explores some topic in depth and is often accompanied by illustrations, maps, graphics and photographs. This makes the acquisition of knowledge easier and more enjoyable.

Regarding the format, encyclopedias are no longer limited to the book form. Currently, they can be obtained in digital format and, in addition, they are fully available online.


Depending on several factors, the structure of an encyclopedic article may vary. Among the factors that affect, we can mention the extension of the text, the target audience, the presentation format and others. Some of its most frequent elements are described below.

Table of Contents

Many encyclopedic articles, especially if they have a considerable length, begin with a thematic scheme. This scheme highlights the important subtopics that will be discussed in the text. It is intended as an overview and, therefore, lists only the main titles.


When they are very specialized, this type of text usually has a glossary. This section contains terms that are important to understand the article and that are not familiar to the reader.

Introductory paragraph

The text of each encyclopedic article begins with an introductory paragraph. In some cases, up to two paragraphs are used to define the topic under discussion and summarize the content of the article.


Development must be maintained within a limited number of words, so it must be concise. Some of these articles contain quotes and notes to support the facts. The explanations should be simple, avoiding technical jargon. In addition, the organization of the text and its presentation must adapt to the theme.


Encyclopedic articles are stipulated to have references that direct the reader to other articles. These cross references generally appear at the end of the text.

Its function is to indicate articles that can be consulted to obtain more information on the same subject or for other information on a related subject.

Reference sources and bibliography

The references or bibliography section appears as the last element of an article. This is a list of the materials consulted by the author when preparing the text.

This may be accompanied by the author’s recommendations of the most appropriate materials for further reading on the given topic.

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