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Basic Library Research & Writing: 5. Finding Reference Info


Finding Basic Information from Reference Sources

When you are conducting research, you will often need authoritative reference information, such as background information, facts, definitions, synonyms, details, statistics, and more. Reference resources are great for finding this kind of information, and can be good places to start your research by looking through them to identify a topic, and choosing additional keywords. Reference resources include encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, and more. They are called reference resources because you generally do not want to read these cover-to-cover, but just want to refer (reference) to them for basic information.

The ASU Library has both print and electronic reference materials. Print reference materials can be identified by searching in U-Search or RamCat and limiting your search to the Reference Collection. (More on this later!) These physical reference books can be found in the Research Area of the Library's Learning Commons.

The Library emphasizes the use of AUTHORITATIVE reference sources. They are authoritative because they are written by respected authors, published by respected publishers, and purchased by the Library using YOUR tuition and library fee money! Much information is available on the Internet for free, but you get what you pay for. Web sites may give out-dated or even incorrect information. Even Wikipedia is suspect, because information may vary minute to minute depending upon members of the public changing the information. Wikipedia "editors" may not even agree on what is included and should be included about a topic! 

The Library provides online access to many digital reference resources in our online databases. A few of the more important ones follow. For additional reference sources, you can look at an appropriate Research Guide or ask a Librarian

-Mark Allan

Reference Databases