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Intro to Library Research

This guide is a starting point for doing research at Wardman Library, finding and evaluating scholarly resources, and getting additional writing help.

What is a Reference Work?

A reference source provides a useful introduction to a topic and is often a good place to start your research, especially if you do not have a comprehensive familiarity with the subject matter. Reference material can be consulted to help define terms and to lay out the history and context of a subject. 

Some common examples of reference works include:

  • encyclopedias
  • dictionaries
  • atlases
  • almanacs
  • handbooks
  • biographical sources
  • indexes

Reading one or many reference source can help you more fully comprehend more technical, detailed, and nuanced scholarly books and articles. 

Where to find them

The majority of print reference books are located on the first floor of the Wardman Library, although there are some on the Mezzanine and Second/Top floors as well. 

There are also many online reference databases, such as Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL), which brings together numerous reference works in one place. Take a look at the "Recommended Reference Databases" box on the left hand side.

Finding Reference Sources Video

Find Reference Works via the Library Catalog

1. To find reference works (both print and eBooks) in the library catalog, go to and select "Advanced Search."

screenshot of catalog homepage

2. Enter your search term(s) in the text fields at the top of the page. Under "Location" select "Reference Collection" and then press "Submit."

screenshot of advanced search page


1. Just like above, go to and select "Advanced Search."

2. In the first text box, enter a general subject term that relates to your topic, e.g. "disease", "biology", "climate change", or "civil war".

3. In the second text box, type "encyclopedias" and then press "Submit."