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Resource Types


Reference books are located on level 3. The Art Library and the Music Library have their own reference sections.

Reference books are useful for quick fact checking and for background information. As such, they remain in the building. Examples of reference books include: almanacs, atlases, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias and indexes.

Reference sources are most useful when you are beginning to work on a topic and need to acquire some background knowledge about it. You may not end up citing them in your bibliography or Works Cited page, but they can help you to get started.

Types of Reference Sources

One volume summaries of current and historical facts and general knowledge.
Examples: World Almanac and Book of Facts, Guinness Book of Records
Book of maps. There are many kinds of atlases — physical, political, statistical, historical.
Example: The Times Atlas of the World
Alphabetical list of words and definitions. These can also focus on specific subjects.
Examples: Random House Webster's College Dictionary, The Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
Contain more extensive articles than do dictionaries. There are general encyclopedias such as The New Encyclopaedia Britannica and specialized encyclopedias, such as The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Print and electronic collections to periodical literature.
Example: Book Review Digest

Other types of reference sources include:

  • bibliographies (lists of sources on specific topics)
  • biographical sources (information on the lives of individuals)
  • chronologies (dates and timelines for events)
  • directories (address and phone number information)

Government documents and statistical sources are also considered reference. However, much of this information is available electronically.

Electronic Sources

The library also makes available e-reference books. Such e-reference books are located either as a link from the CUNY Catalog or listed among the Databases on our library homepage. To see these reference works, choose “Encyclopedias” from the drop down menu on that page.