"Reference works" is an overall term for resources that take an introductory approach to a particular subject and are meant to be consulted for definite items of information (rather than being read consecutively like you would read a novel). These generally include:
Reference works are usually written by scholars and contain the essential information you ought to know before beginning more detailed research. Note: The term "reference works" is also sometimes used to refer to items that cannot be checked out from the library.
For more information, see our Intro to Library Research guide.
Reference resources are organized in a way that aids searching (alphabetically, chronologically, etc). Most include an index which will direct you to the appropriate section. Tips for searching:
Things to watch out for:
LC Subject Headings are classifications agreed upon by all US libraries and be an invaluable tool when you are searching for information. While keyword searches may bring up more titles, LC Subject searching can bring up more accurate lists of works specifically related to your field of study. Need more? Click over to LINK+ and continue your searching there. Need even more? WorldCat includes over 54 million entries from more than 45,000 libraries. You may also place Interlibrary Loan requests. (Slower than LINK+)
Examples of Subject Headings searches:
LC Subject: Human mechanics
LC Subject: Sports medicine
LC Subject: Physical therapy
LC Subject: Running
LC Subject: Exercise
LC Subject: Athletics
To learn more about LC Subject Headings and authorities, visit the Library of Congress Authorities website.
The books listed below are fully accessible and searchable electronic reference books. They are especially useful for acquiring background information or reading up on the history of your topic. They can also be helpful in providing key words that you will use when searching electronic databases for journal articles.
All reference books are located on the First Floor adjacent to the Reference Desk. Reference books are for in library use only. The following resources are useful during paper and presentation drafting.