"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:
Items in the Reference collection -- particularly subject encyclopedias -- are great starting points for your research. Encyclopedia articles offer concise overviews of a topic, summaries of key research in a particular discipline, and often include a bibliography which can serve as a starting list of sources for your project.
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. To see all the E-books that are available click here.