"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:
With the exception of the first section (Dictionaries and terminology), and the last (American), this selection of digital and print reference works at Wardman Library is arranged topically and chronologically by period; the links within each box are arranged alphabetically by title:
Please note that these reference works (sometimes called "tertiary sources") should be utilized at the beginning of a project in order to guide subsequent research. Generally, although reference works should be noted in a "works consulted" list, they are not considered works worthy of citation, but will lead a researcher to appropriate secondary and primary sources that are.