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Reference Sources for Literature

Reference sources are often useful as a first step for gathering background information or overviews of unfamiliar topics. They include dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, directories, etc and are available in print and online formats.  Reference sources are designed to be consulted rather than read through.  The following are collections of reference materials related to literature. Individual types are listed in the various tabs.

Dictionaries can be general or specialized and provide definitions of words in a particular field, word meanings, etymology (origin). Glossaries provide brief explanations of words relating to a specific subject, and are often included the back of a book.

Encyclopedias (general or subject-specific) provide more extensive background information on a topic, and are usually written by a subject specialist.

Handbooks provide facts, formulas, and technical information. They are a quick reference usually about a broad subject area.

The following excellent sources are available in print for checkout.

Biographical dictionaries and directories provide background information about a person.
Quotation dictionaries will identify who said what, where. Many will focus on a particular topic.

Yearbooks:  For a summary of the current status of a year's work in a particular field

General Reference Resources

More Reference sources are listed in our guide to general reference resources.