What is a reference book?
A reference book is a source that provides facts &/or finite pieces of information; this can be general (Encyclopedia Britannica) or more subject focused (Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball). They are sources designed not to be read cover to cover but to be used to get key facts about a topic (think dictionary or almanac). These materials don’t circulate (they have to be used in the Library) so that everyone can use the material. Reference books are a great place to start your research, find general history/background information as well as important people, dates &/or terms related to your topic.
Reference books are usually organized alphabetically (think encyclopedia or dictionary) but using the Index (the back section of a book or group of books that alphabetically lists the headings including people, places and subjects with corresponding page numbers) can be a quick way to find the information you need.
In our library reference books are located in the first eleven moving shelves and are marked with “reference collection” marked on a red sign on the end of the shelves. They are marked USC Upstate Reference in the catalog and have REF on the top of the spine label.
Reference books give you:
- A quick introduction to your subject by covering a lot of points briefly
- In-depth background on some of the major people &/or key elements of your topic
- Vocabulary to use for searches in other resources
- Ideas for additional resources (check the reference list)