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Advanced Research: Reference Tools

This guide is for MSJC students and advanced researchers and features topics such as strategic browsing, finding data and research tips to make your research process more efficient.

Definition of Key Reference Resource Types


  • An almanac is a compendium (a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication) of useful data and statistics relating to countries, personalities, events and subjects.
  • Entries contain very basic information and can be published frequently.


  • Lists of resources on a particular topic
  • A bibliography can be used to locate works about a particular topics, subject or author.

Biographical Sources 

  • Contain information about individuals such as the history of their life and any significant contributions they made.

General Dictionaries

  • Contain information about words (general dictionaries) or specific dictionaries such as English Author Dictionary which provides information on the vocabulary of a specific author.


  • Contain information about people or organizations and are arranged in an order that facilitates finding their location, services or products,  financial information, purpose or mission of an organization, and who is responsible for specific tasks within the organization.

Academic or Specialized Encyclopedias

  • Specialized information regarding a specific subject.
  • Subject specific encyclopedias can assist you in finding facts and provide you with a better vocabulary on a topic.


  • Can cover a specific subject area and focuses on established information, as opposed to the latest information in the field.
  • Covers a limited area and can be used to gain information with quick in-depth answers.


  • Specific subject matter is covered and is very narrow in scope with emphasis on knowledge rather than recent advances.


  • Usually an annual summary that contains information about a specific year and is divided by subject area or geography.
  • While most yearbooks are general there are some that deal with a specific topic and may include statistical information.

These definitions are based on information from Katz, William A. Introduction to Reference Work. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997. Print.