Reference sources are sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, manuals, handbooks, or atlases that are meant to be referred to for background information about a topic. Instead of reading them all the way through, usually you read a small section of them to find information.
Reference sources, such as encyclopedias, are great sources for background reading because they can provide you with an overview of your topic. Because they provide general information, they aren't meant to be used as sources in your research papers (you will find more in-depth, current information to use for your research papers from sources such as academic articles, books, and credible websites). Instead, reference sources are meant to help you learn about your topic so that you can learn what is important or interesting about it and then decide how to focus your research question. You can often learn key vocabulary, issues, and subtopics from reading reference sources.
An example of a reference source is this encyclopedia entry on "Climate Change and Global Warming" from the Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science.
Pan, Z. (2020). Climate change and global warming. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science. https://proxy.umpqua.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89475555&site=eds-live&scope=site
Using the UCC Library Search Box, you can find:
If I were searching for reference sources about net neutrality, I could try some of the following search terms:
1. Go to umpqua.edu/library, click Online Collections on the right side of the page. You will be taken to a list of UCC's databases. To see only the reference databases, click Reference in the drop-down menu under All Online Collection Types. You will now see a complete list of UCC Library reference databases. Click Credo Reference.
2. Enter your search terms into the search box and click the search button.
3. On your page of search results, you will see all of the entries in different reference books that match your search terms. When choosing a result, take into consideration both the title of the entry and the title of the reference book. Remember that the title of the reference book will give you a good idea about whether the entry will be what you are looking for. Also, look at the number of words in the entry to help you find an entry that is the length that you are looking for (1892 words compared to 174 words).
4. You can now read this entry and see the sources in the bibliography that were used to write this entry, get the citation for this entry in APA or MLA format, email the full text and citation of this entry to yourself, or get the permanent link (sometimes called a permalink or bookmark) to always bring you back to this entry.
Scroll down to the bottom of the entry to see the bibliography of sources that the author used to write the entry. For this entry, a list of sources used to write the article is not listed. Instead, sources are suggested for further reading on this subject.
To find the citation of this article in APA or MLA format, you can either click the Cite Article icon near the top of the page or scroll down to the bottom of the page. Choose the citation format that you need and and then copy and past the citation into your Reference List (for APA) or Works Cited (for MLA). The title of the reference book should be in italics. Make sure that the italics copy over in your citation or make sure that you add them yourself after you have pasted the citation. As always, you will want to check the citation that you found in the database against the instructions for citing an entry or chapter in a reference book in the APA or MLA citation manuals.
Click the Email icon at the top of the page. Choose the citation format that you will be using form the drop down menu (APA or MLA). Enter in your information and click Share.
Click the Permalink icon at the top of the page. A box will appear with a link (also called a URL) for you to copy and paste. This is a permanent link that will always bring you back to this resource. (If you were to copy the web address that appears in your web browser, this link will NOT bring you back to the entry because it is not permanent.)
The UCC Library Search Box will also bring up many reference sources in the form of ebooks. To find these sources, I also recommend using the type of source that you are looking for (for example, encyclopedia, dictionary, handbook) as a search term along with a keyword related to your subject.
To find print reference sources available at the UCC Library or in the Douglas County Library System, it is helpful to include the type of reference source that you are searching for along with a keyword related to the subject. This is because the type of reference source is usually part of its title.
If you wanted to limit your search results to only sources that were available physically (in print for books, CDs for music, or DVDs for video) in the UCC Library and Douglas County Library System, you could check the box next to Library Catalog under Limit To on the left side of the screen.
Umpqua Community College Library, 1140 Umpqua College Rd., Roseburg, OR 97470, 541-440-4640
Except where otherwise noted, content in these research guides is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.