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Mostly free versions of classic reference material.

Why reference books?

Reference books provide

  • background information
  • brief overviews of topics
  • commonly used keywords and subject terms
  • important people, places, events, and dates
  • short bibliographies of related books and articles on the topic

Using Reference Books

Check for your keywords or subject terms in the index, which is usually the last volume of a multivolume set or at the end of a single volume book.

At the end of encyclopedia articles, look for a list of sources. This list may be called a bibliography, further readings, or suggested readings. Search for these sources in the library catalog.

Using an Encyclopedia

As a Background Source

The purpose of an encyclopedia is to provide basic information about a topic. Within the article, you should encounter important terms, the names of notable people, and background information on the topic. This can help you establish a foundation for your research.

Never Cite an Encyclopedia Article

This is something that is never done. Never!

Use the Bibliography at the End of an Article

Sources included are considered classic books and articles on the topic.


Finding sources when you know nothing about a topic

Search Online Reference Collections

Search indexes & entry titles of all CofC reference books!
Enter your search terms:


Search Oxford Reference Online


Search Gale Virtual Reference Library


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