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What are reference sources and why would I use them?
Reference sources can provide background information about a subject or person, general information regarding a process, and/or definitions of terms or concepts. Types of reference sources include encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, almanacs, handbooks, statistical directories, biographical handbooks, chronologies, and other related materials. Reference sources acquaint you with unfamiliar topics by giving you:
- Substantial overviews of an idea, field, subject or event
- Accurate and easy-to-understand definitions
- Analysis of noteworthy events
- Biographical information
Start My Research
Search thousands of sources available through Auraria Library including databases, journals, articles, media, books, and more. Limit by material type, publication date, author, and more.This is the same as the search box on Auraria Library's homepage.
- Enter a keyword(s) to describe your topic and also a reference material type such as encyclopedia, dictionary, chronology, or handbook.
- psychology encyclopedia
- philosophy dictionaries
- chemistry handbooks
- Vietnam war chronology
- Limit your search to Books / Ebooks (under the search box).
- Click Search.
- Enter a keyword(s) to describe your topic.
- Limit to Books / Ebooks.
- Click Search.
- On the results page under Content Type select Reference.
- Enter the title of the reference book you're interested in.
- Example: The Sage Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender
Reference Sources on the Open Web
Reference resources like encyclopedias, timelines, etc. are also on the open web. If you find one that looks useful, just be sure to evaluate it so you know the contents are authoritative.
Best Bets: Multidisciplinary Reference Sources
Oxford Reference This link opens in a new window
A collection of subject-specific encyclopedias, timelines, quotations, and subject and language dictionaries. Find substantial topic overviews, in-depth information, as well as short definitions. Content is heavier in the arts and humanities but includes titles in the social sciences and sciences.
Britannica ACADEMIC This link opens in a new window
Britannica, and the resources bundled within the collection, supply topic overviews, biographies, word and concept definitions, a world atlas, historical timelines, quotations, illustrations, photos, videos, links to relevant articles and websites, primary sources, and the World Data Analyst, supplying customizable charts and tables of statistics on countries of the world. Users can suggest edits and additions to content. Note: Britannica ACADEMIC World Atlas is only available on campus. Check the end of each article for a Citation Exporter.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online
Search in one of Cambridge’s four English Language dictionaries: the Cambridge English dictionary (including Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Academic Content Dictionary, and Business English Dictionary), the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary, the Cambridge Essential American English Dictionary, and the Cambridge Essential British English Dictionary. This site also provides translation dictionaries, a thesaurus, and English grammar explanations and examples.
History Reference Center This link opens in a new window
Covering both U.S. and world history, the History Reference Center contains full-text historical documents and articles from reference books, history magazines, journals, and newspapers. Additionally, it provides timelines, biographies, maps, photos and video clips.
Science Reference Center This link opens in a new window
Science Reference Center contains monographs, journals and magazines, and reference works on scientific topics including physical sciences, life sciences, and earth and space science.