|Ramsey Library Research Guides
These are single-volume, portable dictionaries that contain most commonly used words. They are also known as desk dictionaries. Every L.E.P should use one on a regular basis.
With over a half a million entries, unabridged dictionaries attempt to include most words in current usage, as well as a broad selection of archaic words. The Oxford English Dictionary, or OED for short, is an important multi-volume unabridged dictionary used for tracing an English word's history. A word's history is called its etymology.
These works attempt to present a summary of the worlds knowledge. Most printed encyclopedias are published in large multi-volume sets with alphabetically arranged subjects. However, because subjects often overlap, you need to use the encyclopedias index to locate information about a subject that is included in other articles.
These generally provide a detailed treatment of ideas, concepts, and persons within a specific discipline or group of disciplines. Often written by experts in the field, the entries are more scholarly in nature and contain helpful bibliographies that can get you started on your research.
There are numerous subject-specific encyclopedias in the Reference Collection. Some of the more popular ones at UNCA include: (click link for library call number)
Note: Don't be misled by the titles of subject encyclopedias. The names "dictionary" and "encyclopedia" are often used interchangeably with these types of multi-volume reference works.
Some popular reference sources for biographical information that can be found in most libraries include:
Who said, "War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrows?" Where can you find quotations about love or friendship? What have the great thinkers said about democracy? Books of quotations arranged by author or theme can help. These reference tools can be very useful when you have to make a speech or oral presentation. A few good examples are:
Atlases are collections of maps that may or may not have accompanying narratives. These are shelved in the Maps/Atlases case in the Reference area. A couple of good ones are:
Sometimes referred to as geographical dictionaries, these provide narrative descriptions of places and geographic and topographic features. A great example is:
These reference books provide brief, factual data on many different topics. If you use only one statistical yearbook in your academic career, make it the Statistical Abstract of the United States (or at least come to the library and look at it some day). This is truly the mother lode for U.S. statistics, containing tables on anything and everything from "Abortions" to "Zoo Attendance."
Increasingly, we are turning to the World Wide Web for state and federal government info. For years the U.S. Government was touted as the "world's largest publisher." Now, as it turns out, they are one the largest producers of online content as well.
Granted, you've got lots of reference tools, electronic resources, and Web search engines available to you. But don't forget about personal contacts and seeking advice from experts who have conducted research before you. Reference librarians are invaluable resources to you! Every L.E.P. should befriend a reference librarian and bounce ideas off of him or her from time to time. That's what we're here for.
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This page created by Bryan Sinclair and Anita White-Carter, Public Services Librarians. Last updated 6 February 2009.