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February 1968

The Encyclopedia of Biochemistry.

Arch Intern Med. 1968;121(2):194-195. doi:10.1001/archinte.1968.03640020082022

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Encyclopedias, in general, have common traits—which can be both virtues and drawbacks. For example, they usually have hundreds of specialist-contributors who often write as if they are speaking to other specialists of the same stripe. A good editor reduces such presentation to common parlance. Since encyclopedias have status, readers tend to consult them on subjects about which they know little, and they often consider the monographs to be the last word on the subject. As a matter of fact, while the contributions themselves are usually factually valid, they must, perforce, be oversimplified. One reason is the heterogenous audience; another is the brevity of a presentation. If the reader views the material in a monograph as a representative cut of a picture rather than a peak, the information he will derive will be skewed. An unfamiliar reader may consider a subject to be unimportant because a given encyclopedia may dispose of

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