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, and 2-volume Index (blue) Encyclopaedia Britannica 15 with 2002.jpg
Encyclopædia Britannica , 15th edition: volumes of the Propedia (green), Micropedia (red), Macropedia, and 2-volume Index (blue)

A reference work is a work such as a book or periodical (or its electronic equivalent) to which one can refer for information. [1] The information is intended to be found quickly when needed. Reference 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. 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. Indices are commonly provided in many types of reference work. Updated editions are usually published as needed, in some cases annually (e.g. 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.


A reference work is useful to its users if they attribute some degree of trust.

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.

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. [3] 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. [3]

Related Research Articles

Encyclopedia Type of reference work

An encyclopedia 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.

Library Organized collection of books or other information resources

A library is a curated collection of sources of information and similar resources, selected by experts and made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing, often in a quiet environment conducive to study. It provides physical or digital access to material, and may be a physical location or a virtual space, or both. A library's collection can include books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, maps, prints, documents, microform, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, e-books, audiobooks, databases, and other formats. Libraries range widely in size up to millions of items. In Latin and Greek, the idea of a bookcase is represented by Bibliotheca and Bibliothēkē : derivatives of these mean library in many modern languages, e.g. French bibliothèque.

<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 seventeen 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 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. Carter and Barker (2010) describe bibliography as a twofold scholarly discipline—the organized listing of books and the systematic description of books as objects.

This page is a glossary of library and information science.

Library collection development is the process of building the library materials to meet the information needs of the users in a timely and economical manner using information resources locally held, as well as from other organizations.

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.

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

A bibliographic database is a database of bibliographic records, an organized digital collection of references to published literature, including journal and newspaper articles, conference proceedings, reports, government and legal publications, patents, books, etc. In contrast to library catalogue entries, a large proportion of the bibliographic records in bibliographic databases describe articles, conference papers, etc., rather than complete monographs, and they generally contain very rich subject descriptions in the form of keywords, subject classification terms, or abstracts.

Library instruction, also called bibliographic instruction, user education and library orientation, consists of "instructional programs designed to teach library users how to locate the information they need quickly and effectively. [It] usually covers the library's system of organizing materials, the structure of the literature of the field, research methodologies appropriate to the academic discipline, and specific resources and finding tools " It prepares individuals to make immediate and lifelong use of information effectively by teaching the concepts and logic of information access and evaluation, and by fostering information independence and critical thinking. Above all they are aimed at equipping library users with skills to locate library sources and use them effectively to satisfy their information needs.

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.

Isadore Gilbert Mudge American librarian

Isadore Gilbert Mudge was ranked by the magazine American Libraries as one of the top 100 important leaders that libraries have had in the 20th Century. Mudge was a defining influence on what a contemporary reference librarian is and was essential for helping organize and promote reference books for use in helping patrons find information and answers to questions.

A bibliographic index is a bibliography intended to help find a publication. Citations are usually listed by author and subject in separate sections, or in a single alphabetical sequence under a system of authorized headings collectively known as controlled vocabulary, developed over time by the indexing service. Indexes of this kind are issued in print periodical form, online, or both. Since the 1970s they are typically generated as output from bibliographic databases.

A bibliographic record is an entry in a bibliographic index which represents and describes a specific resource. A bibliographic record contains the data elements necessary to help users identify and retrieve that resource, as well as additional supporting information, presented in a formalized bibliographic format. Additional information may support particular database functions such as search, or browse, or may provide fuller presentation of the content item.

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.

A metabibliography is a bibliography of bibliographies.

A Guide to information sources is a kind of metabibliography. Ideally it is not just a listing of bibliographies, reference works and other information sources, but more like a textbook introducing users to the information sources in a given field.

Outline of books Overview of and topical guide to books

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

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. 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