Question: What value lies in a reference work? Why, for example, would a researcher bother to consult a scholarly encyclopedia?
Answer: Reference works provide great overviews. They help researchers contextualize their topics and begin to ask the right questions. They also help with generating search terms to use when later searching in research databases. Moreover, reference works contain bibliographies that lead researchers to the most respected secondary and most useful primary sources on a topic.
In short, reference works are a great way to begin your research.
Need to look up a name, place, term, or event? The sources below contain many different kinds of encyclopedias and dictionaries and are excellent starting points.
Need to find the earliest references to a word or phrase like "cockleburr"? Need to understand how a word was defined in a particular time period? Then these sources are for you!
Still trying to wrap your head around a literary theory or theorist? Then this source is for you!
Need to quick look up a literary period, theme, symbol, or term? Try using the following sources for help!
Trying to identify appropriate reference sources and tools to consult? This guide is useful when planning how to approach a research topic, particularly in specific literary areas.