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Humanities Research: Sources and Strategies: Reference Sources

Tips for Reference Sources

Finding reference books:

  • When entering your search terms, add the terms "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries" (some encyclopedias call themselves dictionaries). For more more subject  terms you can use, see the mindmap under "Resources" below.
  • Check research guides (see the ones listed on the homepage of this guide).
  • If you've found a good book in the Reference Room, note its call number, and check that section of the main stacks (shelves) in the Library. Some of our more specialized reference sources, or earlier editions that may contain additional information, are shelved there.

Finding databases:

  • Check our "Databases" page. Look for:
  • the "Reference Sources" heading
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library
  • Oxford Reference Online


Reference Sources: Resources

Reference Sources: Should I do a Broad or Narrow Search?

Since encyclopedias and dictionaries are tertiary resources that summarize the state of knowledge in a field, they need to be retrieved using a broad search approach.  For example, although there will be journal articles and books published on such topics as women nurses during the Civil War, or non-slaveholding southern women during that era, there are encyclopedias devoted to women and the Civil War, containing summarizing articles on the more specific aspects of women's lives and issues during the conflict.