Answered By: Sarah Morehouse
Last Updated: May 01, 2015     Views: 292

I am guessing you've probably already Googled your topic, read the Wikipedia article, etc., or you've decided not to do that and skip right to the more reliable sources. Don't discount the value of Wikipedia! I don't mean to trust it, but you can mine it for vocabulary and look at the bibliography and links at the bottom of the article. 

But let's look at how to find basic information using library resources - reference books. (Or, in our case, reference ebooks.)

1. Go to the library web site at

2. Click Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

Now you are on the first tab of our Reference Subject Guide. If you look at the other tabs, you'll see that there are ones for Biography, Statistics, Maps, etc. Feel free to explore. Many of the resources on those tabs are web sites that faculty have recommended to us, or we have checked out ourselves and found to be high quality and reliable. 

Back to the first tab. The top three links are to our major reference databases: Gale Virtual Reference Library, Credo Reference, and Oxford Reference Online. 

3. Select a reference database and click it

You may be prompted to log in with your college login and password

4. Search for your topic by keyword in the search box

5. Your search results will contain articles from different kinds of reference resources such as handbooks, guides, and subject encyclopedias (much more detailed, specific and advanced than the kind of encyclopedia you may be used to using at home) etc. 

You may have heard that you should not cite reference resources in your research papers. The reason for this is that, while they're often high quality and reliable, they're not original research. When somebody creates a reference book, they're summarizing and synthesizing information from the work of other scholars. When you want a resource to cite in a formal research paper, you should go back to those original scholars.

You may still be asked to cite reference resources that you use in various discussion and writing assignments so that your instructor can see where you are getting your information. 

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