Reference work

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The Brockhaus Enzyklopadie, the best known traditional reference book in German-speaking countries 2010-09 CPOV IMG 6251.JPG
The Brockhaus Enzyklopädie , the best known traditional reference book in German-speaking countries
The Lexikon des Mittelalters (Dictionary of the Middle Ages), a specialised German encyclopedia LexikondesMittelalters.JPG
The Lexikon des Mittelalters (Dictionary of the Middle Ages), a specialised German encyclopedia
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition: volumes of the Propedia (green), Micropedia (red), Macropedia (black), and 2-volume Index (blue) Encyclopaedia Britannica 15 with 2002.jpg
Encyclopædia Britannica , 15th edition: volumes of the Propedia (green), Micropedia (red), Macropedia (black), and 2-volume Index (blue)

A reference work is a work, such as a book or periodical (or their electronic equivalents), to which one can refer for information. [1] The information is intended to be found quickly when needed. Such works are usually referred to for particular pieces of information, rather than read beginning to end. The writing style used in these works is informative; the authors avoid use of the first person, and emphasize facts.


Indices are a common navigation feature in many types of reference works. Many reference works are compiled by a team of contributors whose work is coordinated by one or more editors, rather than by an individual author. Updated editions are usually published as needed, in some cases annually ( Whitaker's Almanack , Who's Who ).

Reference works include dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, biographical sources, catalogs such as library catalogs and art catalogs, concordances, directories such as business directories and telephone directories, discographies, filmographies, glossaries, handbooks, indices such as bibliographic indices and citation indices, manuals, research guides, thesauruses, and yearbooks. [2] Many reference works are available in electronic form and can be obtained as reference software, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or online through the Internet. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is both the largest and the most-read reference work in history. [3]

Reference book

In contrast to books that are loaned, a reference book or reference-only book in a library is one that may only be used in the library and may not be borrowed from the library. Many such books are reference works (in the first sense), which are, usually, used briefly or photocopied from, and therefore, do not need to be borrowed. Keeping reference books in the library assures that they will always be available for use on demand. Some reference-only books are too valuable to permit borrowers to take them out. Reference-only items may be shelved in a reference collection located separately from circulating items. Some libraries consist entirely, or to a large extent, of books which may not be borrowed.

Types of reference work

These are the main types and categories of reference work:

Electronic resources

An electronic resource is a computer program or data that is stored electronically, which is usually found on a computer, including information that is available on the Internet. [4] Libraries offer numerous types of electronic resources including electronic texts such as electronic books and electronic journals, bibliographic databases, institutional repositories, websites, and software applications. [4]

Related Research Articles

Dictionary Collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc.. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

Encyclopedia Type of reference work

An encyclopedia, encyclopædia, or encyclopaedia is a reference work or compendium providing summaries of knowledge either from all branches or from a particular field or discipline. Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries that are often arranged alphabetically by article name and sometimes by thematic categories. Encyclopedia entries are longer and more detailed than those in most dictionaries. Generally speaking, unlike dictionary entries—which focus on linguistic information about words, such as their etymology, meaning, pronunciation, use, and grammatical forms—encyclopedia articles focus on factual information concerning the subject named in the article's title.

John Ray British naturalist (1627–1705), known for his work on plant classification

John Ray FRS was an English naturalist widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists. Until 1670, he wrote his name as John Wray. From then on, he used 'Ray', after "having ascertained that such had been the practice of his family before him". He published important works on botany, zoology, and natural theology. His classification of plants in his Historia Plantarum, was an important step towards modern taxonomy. Ray rejected the system of dichotomous division by which species were classified according to a pre-conceived, either/or type system, and instead classified plants according to similarities and differences that emerged from observation. He was among the first to attempt a biological definition for the concept of species, as "as a group of morphologically similar organisms arising from a common ancestor".

Library Organized collection of books or other information resources

A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order to meet the user's needs on a daily basis. A Library provides physical or digital access materials, and may be a physical location or a virtual space, or both. A library's collection can include printed materials and other physical resources in many formats such as DVDs, CDs and Cassette as well as access to information, music or other content held on bibliographic databases.

<i>The Chicago Manual of Style</i> Academic style guide by University of Chicago Press

The Chicago Manual of Style is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its 17 editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing. It is "one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States". The guide specifically focuses on American English and deals with aspects of editorial practice, including grammar and usage, as well as document preparation and formatting. It is available in print as a hardcover book, and by subscription as a searchable website as The Chicago Manual of Style Online. The online version provides some free resources, primarily aimed at teachers, students, and libraries.

Library catalog Register of bibliographic items

A library catalog is a register of all bibliographic items found in a library or group of libraries, such as a network of libraries at several locations. A catalog for a group of libraries is also called a union catalog. A bibliographic item can be any information entity that is considered library material, or a group of library materials, or linked from the catalog as far as it is relevant to the catalog and to the users (patrons) of the library.

Bibliography Organized listing of books and the systematic description of them as objects

Bibliography, as a discipline, is traditionally the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects; in this sense, it is also known as bibliology. English author and bibliographer John Carter describes bibliography as a word having two senses, one, a list of books for further study or of works consulted by an author ; the other, one applicable for collectors, is "the study of books as physical objects" and "the systematic description of books as objects".

This page is a glossary of library and information science.

James Halliwell-Phillipps English Shakespeare scholar, antiquarian, and a collector of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales (1820-1889)

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps was an English Shakespearean scholar, antiquarian, and a collector of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

A monograph is a specialist work of writing or exhibition on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, often by a single author or artist, and usually on a scholarly subject.

An index is a list of words or phrases ('headings') and associated pointers ('locators') to where useful material relating to that heading can be found in a document or collection of documents. Examples are an index in the back matter of a book and an index that serves as a library catalog.

Parenthetical referencing, also known as Harvard referencing, is a citation style in which partial citations—for example, "(Smith 2010, p. 1)"—are enclosed within parentheses and embedded in the text, either within or after a sentence. They are accompanied by a full, alphabetized list of citations in an end section, usually titled "references", "reference list", "works cited", or "end-text citations". Parenthetical referencing can be used in lieu of footnote citations.

R. R. Bowker LLC is an American limited liability company based in New Providence, New Jersey, and incorporated in Delaware. Among other things, Bowker provides bibliographic information on published works to the book trade, including publishers, booksellers, libraries, and individuals; its roots in the industry trace back to 1868. Bowker is the exclusive U.S. agent for issuing International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), a universal method of identifying books in print. Bowker is the publisher of Books in Print and other compilations of information about books and periodical titles. It provides supply chain services and analytical tools to the book publishing industry. Bowker is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey, with additional operational offices in England and Australia. It is now owned by Cambridge Information Group.

Probability of default (PD) is a financial term describing the likelihood of a default over a particular time horizon. It provides an estimate of the likelihood that a borrower will be unable to meet its debt obligations.

Music librarianship is the area of librarianship that pertains to music collections and their development, cataloging, preservation and maintenance, as well as reference issues connected with musical works and music literature. Music librarians usually have degrees in both music and librarianship. Music librarians deal with standard librarianship duties such as cataloging and reference, but the addition of music scores and recordings to collections complicates these tasks. Therefore, music librarians generally read music and have at least a basic understanding of both music theory and music history to aid in their duties.

Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology is the main resource for determining the identity of prokaryotic organisms, emphasizing bacterial species, using every characterizing aspect.

A pathfinder is a bibliography created to help begin research in a particular topic or subject area.. Pathfinders produced by the Library of Congress are known as "tracer bullets". What is special about a pathfinder is that it only refers to the information in a specific location, i.e. the shelves of a local library.

Outline of books Overview of and topical guide to books

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to books:

This is a list of encyclopedias and encyclopedic/biographical dictionaries published on the subject of business, information and information technology, economics and businesspeople in any language. Entries are in the English language except where noted.

The British National Bibliography (BNB) was established at the British Museum in 1949 to publish a list of the books, journals and serials that are published in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. It also includes information on forthcoming titles. This is the single most comprehensive listing of UK titles. UK and Irish publishers are obliged by legal deposit to send a copy of all new publications, including serial titles, to the BNB for listing. The BNB publishes the list weekly in electronic form: the last printed weekly list appeared in December 2011.


  1. "Reference". The Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Inc. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  2. Reitz, Joan M. (10 January 2013). "Reference book". Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  3. "Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher". The Economist . 9 January 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  4. 1 2 Reitz, Joan M. (10 January 2013). "Electronic resource". Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Retrieved 29 November 2019.

Further reading

Guides to reference works