Skip to Main Content

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

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

  • Enter a keyword(s) to describe your topic and also a reference material type such as encyclopedia, dictionary, chronology, or handbook. 
  • Examples
    • 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

Best Bets: Multidisciplinary Reference Sources