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Modern Languages: Reference Sources

A starting point for students researching modern languages at Wardman Library, Whittier College.

What is a Reference Source?

References sources are a great place to start your research. They provide brief, credible introductions to a topic. Examples include:

  • Background or overview synopses (encyclopedia)
  • Definitions (dictionary)
  • Synonyms (thesaurus)
  • Statistics
  • Biographical details
  • Maps (atlas)

Links/resources to the right of this box are specific to this discipline. General resources not directly related to Modern Languages can be found on the library database page.

How to Use a Reference Source

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:

  1. Decide on your search terms
  2. Try searching with them
  3. If not satisfied with the results, try searching a synonym or related idea

Things to watch out for:

  • Is the computer searching only the title/header of the entries or the full-text of the information?  You will get more results, but more of them will be irrelavant if you are searching the full-text.
  • Are you searching for a proper noun (name, place,...)?  Make sure that the spelling is correct and try variations if it originated in a foreign language.
  • Searching for something by date?  This is trickier than it sounds.  If possible, search for an event name or topic rather than a date, e.g. civil rights movement or hippies or flower children rather than 1960s.

Suggested Reference Books

The books listed below 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.You can find additional print books by searching the library catalog. Online reference material can be accessed through GVRL and Oxford Reference.