- Descriptions of reference work types.
- Dictionaries, Glossaries, Thesauruses General and subject-oriented.
- Encyclopedias General and subject-oriented. What to use an encyclopedia, including Wikipedia, for.
- List of Databases Having Reference Content:
Reference-oriented databases in TEL:
Gale Virtual Reference Library
General Reference Center Gold
Educators' Reference Complete
Health Reference Center Academic
Multi-subject databases in TEL to search for reference materials:
Expanded Academic ASA
For subject-oriented databases in TEL, see the Course Resource (guide) for your course or program area.
Reference Work - A reference work is one consulted for specific information or data. It is not intended to be read cover-to-cover. Reference materials are rapidly shifting online. In fact, the entire Web might be considered a reference work in a very loose sense. And specific Web content is reducing the need for printed reference in many cases, especially with casual use of, for example, maps and dictionaries.
Caveat: The names of various types of reference works are often misapplied in titles. Take titles with a grain of salt. The content may not match the title; and a title may not use any of these terms. The most commonly confused are manuals and handbooks. A yearbook may be a directory published annually. In fact, the boundaries between a certain type and another may not ever be truly distinct. Perhaps these definitions should only be considered as attempts to make order out of chaos.
Almanac - A work that attempts to present a diverse variety of frequently needed information, all in one place. It is usually a one-volume work, if in print. Two well-known examples include the The World Almanac and book of Facts and The Old Farmer's Almanac. Almanacs are sometimes updated annually. (See Yearbook below.)
Atlas - A collection of maps and related data on a particular subject. Well-known examples include atlases of the world and roadmap atlases. However, the topic does not have to pertain to physical geography.
Bibliography - Bibliographies are not only found at the back of books and articles. As a stand-alone publication, a bibliography catalogs or indexes the works of a particular author, or works on a given topic, generally with informative annotations. Related terms include: webliography, discography, etc.
Concordance - A specialized index which locates all instances of a given word within either a large work, such as the Bible, or within a body of work, such as the works of Shakespeare.
Dictionary - See the separate page on dictionaries.
Directory - An alphabetical listing of contact information. Some directories may contain additional types of information. Beyond the familiar telephone directory, a range of examples includes: Directory of Semiconductor Manufacturers, The Next Exit 2011: USA Interstate Exit Directory, The Best in Tent Camping: Tennessee....
Encyclopedia - See the separate page on encyclopedias.
Gazeteer - A work which lists alphabetically the names of places. In addition to names of cities, states, provinces, etc., it may also include names of natural features, such as lakes, rivers, mountains, etc.
Handbook - A work that contains a collection of significant and useful reference information pertaining to a given subject or profession.
Manual - A work that describes how to do something or use something, often step-by-step. For example, it may explain (a) how to use a piece of software (user's guide), (b) how to make a car repair, or (c) how to format a non-fiction article for publication (style guide). Examples: The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Modern Electronic Circuits Reference Manual.
Thesaurus - A work containing words of similar meaning, synonyms.
Travel Guide - A work dedicated to a particular geographic area, such as a country, city, or region. A travel guide attempts to contain all the kinds of information a visitor who is unfamiliar with the place will need. Key types of information include details about: (a) hotels, restaurants, sights, events, special foods and beverages, etc.; and (b) how things work in that place. Examples of the latter include: transportation; money; unusual laws, social rules, and customs; days and hours when museums and stores are open; and other advice.
Who's Who (Biographical Dictionary) - An alphabetical listing of persons with biographical information (a paragraph or a page). Who's Whos are generally limited to a specific population, such as: Who's Who of American Women, or Who's Who in Baseball.
Yearbook (Annual) - Any publication that is issued annually. The content is typically information that changes over time, hence, the need to republish annually. Examples: Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, Yearbook of Nanotechnology in Society.
Suggestions for the content of this page are welcome.