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2) Find Background Information: Reference Materials

A University of Lethbridge Library guide to finding dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials.

Sample Resources - General Reference

Sample Resources - Subject Specific Reference

Reference Materials

When should I use reference materials in my research?

Reference materials, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and almanacs are a great place to start your library research. They can provide a good overview of your research topic, help you focus your research, and direct you to other relevant books and journals.

What's the difference between general and subject specific reference materials?

General reference materials, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, are written for a popular audience. They aim to provide an overview of general knowledge in one or more areas.

Subject specific resources provide more in-depth coverage of a particular topic or academic discipline.

Where is the library's reference collection located?

The library's reference collection is located on Level 10, behind the Library Services Desk. Additionally, many of the library's reference holdings are also available electronically. 

Searching for reference materials

On the library's home page, click on the 'reference' tab in the middle of the page. Here you can do a basic or advanced search already narrowed down to those items which are categorized as reference material. This will include both print and electronic holdings.


You can also do a basic search in Summon for your topic, and narrow by 'Content Type' to 'Book / e-Book' and then further narrow by 'Library Location' to 'Reference Materials' to find those items physically located in our Reference Collection on level 10.

Catalogue Search Tips

How do I find dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference books in the library catalogue?

To find general reference works, try searching the U of L library catalogue for any of the following subject headings:

  • Encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Thesauri
  • Electronic encyclopedias
  • Electronic dictionaries

Library Help

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