All about Major Reference Works at Springer Nature

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Tue Jul 4 2023

By Ruth Lefèvre, Senior Editor, Major Reference Works


Author: Guest contributor

Encyclopedias. Handbooks. Dictionaries. All sorts of large reference works that collect and distill current research and understanding in a single place, so that researchers and students can find authoritative summaries of the state of a field, quickly and easily, when they need them. At Springer Nature, we refer to all of these large tomes as “Major Reference Works,” Or MRWs, for short.

Essential MRWs from Springer and Palgrave Macmillan

Springer and Palgrave Macmillan both publish a full range of MRWs across all disciplines. Below, I’ll detail some of the features of both. 

Springer MRWs

Springer publishes high-quality MRWs across STM and HSS, including such important titles as: Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (2009), Handbook of Manufacturing Engineering and Technology (2015) and Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research (2014). These MRWs have served as important reference resources ever since they were published.

In 2023, Springer will continue delivering reliable scholastic reference with new content. In addition to those classical academic fields, we also focus on publishing fast-growing fields, interdisciplinary topics, and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)-related titles.  

Palgrave Macmillan MRWs

Palgrave has a long and distinguished tradition of notable major reference works including two of our flagship publications: The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, first published in 1894, and The Statesman’s Yearbook, which will publish its 160th edition in 2023. This year also sees some of our most anticipated new titles published in print after several years in development as well as expanding into more of the areas that Palgrave is renowned for.

Who uses these MRWs?

MRW chapters are some of Springer Nature’s most popular categories with high usage and downloads (8x more than regular book usage) so editors and authors can be sure that their work will reach a wide audience. These include:

  • Students looking for relevant content and citations to seminal studies that will enable them to complete assignments.
  • Lecturers and academics who want to guide their students to the most applicable content, create reading lists and to support teaching and presentations.
  • Researchers and practitioners who need speedy access to reliable and up-to-date information in order to keep abreast of developments in their field.

What kinds of MRWs does Springer Nature publish?

Providing comprehensive, interdisciplinary coverage throughout the humanities and social sciences, material in our MRWs is always tertiary literature/established knowledge, not new research. Formats from both Springer and Palgrave Macmillan include:

  • Handbooks of 50 chapters or more (distinct from standard, non-MRW, Palgrave Handbooks that can report new research). Handbooks are arranged in themed sections and cover established and emerging fields.
  • Encyclopediae of 200 chapters or more containing short definitions, mid-length entries, and articles on central topics up to 10,000 words. Arranged A-Z, they provide factual information in established disciplines.
  • Atlases of 50 chapters or more, where illustrations are key in understanding the topic and supporting the text. Usually, one page of text plus one or more with illustrations.
  • Dictionaries of 150 entries or more, arranged A-Z in one continuous unit providing a definition and limited information about a specific term.

How publishing an MRW works at Springer Nature

Springer Nature works with members of the research community to create these important works. That includes Editors-in-Chief (EiCs) that lead these projects and Editorial Boards to work with the EiC and take responsibility for various sections. And together, the EiC and Editorial Board Members work to write entries as well as recruit contributors for entries; all of whom come from the community and are researchers actively working in the field. 

These EiCs and Editorial Board Members don’t do their work in a vacuum — the team I’m on in the Springer Nature MRW group works with them to give them the support and guidance they need to put together the best possible reference works. 

What support can EiCs and Boards expect?

  • Experienced team of MRW experts based at our locations around the globe available to provide support in similar time zones.
  • Springer Nature’s convenient and easy-to-use bespoke editorial management system, Meteor, supports the development of your work and is able to handle the complexities of multi-author publications. 
  • Services of a dedicated development editor and a project manager who will take care of much of the administration relating to officially inviting authors, chasing overdue entries, and support and training on Meteor.
  • Copy-editing and typesetting services.

What does Springer Nature look for in an Editor-in-Chief? 

So: What characteristics do we look for in an EiC? What kind of researcher makes a great MRW EiC? 

  • Someone who is keen to be a champion for their discipline, making a significant contribution to the field with a career-defining work that synthesizes established knowledge for a new generation of academics.
  • A senior figure with a wide network of potential authors and editorial board members.
  • People who have served on journal or book series editorial boards often have the experience to lead a project but anyone who wants to make their mark on their discipline, enjoys expanding their network and has identified the need for such a work would also make a good candidate.

Reasons to edit an MRW with Springer Nature

Intrigued so far? Here are some of the concrete reasons why, if you fit the description above, you might think about editing an MRW with me or another member of my team. 

  • MRWs are prestigious, high-profile works that enhance reputation, allowing an editor to make a long-lasting impact in their field.
  • High visibility: MRW usage is 8 x higher than other categories of books with impressive reference citations.
  • Flat fee remuneration.
  • Complimentary copies of the print edition.
  • Lifetime gratis access to the constantly growing reference collection on SpringerLink.
  • 40% discount on the purchase of other Springer Nature books.

The MRW team always welcomes suggestions for new MRWs. If you have an idea for one, whether for Springer or for Palgrave imprints, please reach out to me (Ruth Lefèvre at and I will put you in contact with the subject editor best matched to your idea. (If you do already work with an editor at Springer or Palgrave, please feel free to reach out to them directly, and they’ll be able to connect you to our team.) 

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About the author

Ruth Lefèvre © springernature 2023
Ruth has extensive experience with major reference titles having worked on many of Palgrave’s flagship publications since 2003. She works with her subject-specific publishing editor colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to identify areas where we wish to acquire reference content as well as overseeing a portfolio of projects in development. As part of Springer Nature’s dedicated and global MRW unit, Ruth works with colleagues to develop the reference programme as a whole and will be glad to forward ideas in other disciplines outside of the humanities and social sciences to the most appropriate member of the team.


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