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Reference Sources Overview

Reference sources serve a variety of purposes and are good starting points for any research project of problem. They can provide:

  • background or introductory information on a topic
  • information about important dates, events, and people related to a topic
  • definitions of relevant terms and terminology
  • statistical or tabular data as well as technical instruction
stack of books that are reference sources  

Research Scenario: Imagine that your instructor has assigned an in-depth research paper on space station technology, and your own knowledge of this topic is limited. What should you do?

In this situation, starting your research with reference sources is a good strategy because they help you quickly get a basic understanding of your topic. Once you have a basic understanding, it will be much easier for you to research your topic in-depth as the assignment requires. 

Types of reference sources you might consult:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks and manuals
  • Directories
  • Almanacs
  • Biographical, Statistical and Other Reference Sources

All types of reference sources can be found in the Reference Stacks of the Contra Costa College Library, which are located behind the Reference Desk. In this chapter, you will also learn about the library's electronic reference sources, which can be found in the library's electronic databases.


Chapter 3 — Page 2