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Reference Sources: Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, and More!: Home

Do you usually use Wikipedia to get your bearings on a topic? Find even more from authoritative resources using the Library's specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other "reference" sources.

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

Best Practices

Discover thousands of digital and print reference books & sites.

  • Use the Start My Research search box from the above link.
  • Type in a keyword or phrase to describe your topic and combine it with the word encyclopedias, dictionaries, chronology, or handbooks. 
  • Examples
    • psychology encyclopedias
    • philosophy dictionaries
    • chemistry handbooks
    • Vietnam war chronology
    • African Americans encyclopedias
  • Click on the search button.
  • Limit your Content Type (on left) to books/ebooks.

Aren't "Reference Sources" on the Web?

Yes. Reference resources like encyclopedias, timelines, etc. are also on the Web. If you find one that looks good, just be sure to evaluate it so you know the contents are authoritative.

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Subjects: **General Research