Reference Sources

Reference sources contain background information on many subjects. Encyclopedia, handbooks, and statistical compilations are examples of reference sources. They are available online and in print.

Reference Sources can be general and subject-related. General sources provide overviews on a wide variety of topics. Subject-related reference sources contain entries focusing on one field of study.

Use a Reference Source

  • when starting a project or paper
  • when looking for background information on a topic
  • when trying to find key ideas, important dates, concepts, or statistics


  • Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (subject source)
  • Encyclopedia Britannica (general source)
  • Key Concepts in Education (subject source)