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Identify Different Types of Information Sources: Reference Sources

Sources for Reference and Background Research

Shelf of Encyclopedia Britannica books.Start with encyclopedias and handbooks when you are developing your research topic. These are good reference sources for fact-finding, getting background topic information, or learning of key events and individuals. There are general encyclopedias (Encyclopedia Britannica) and there are subject specific encyclopedias (Encyclopedia of Global Warming).

MC Library offers these reference sources both online and in print format.

Note: Wikipedia is generally not considered a scholarly source because information in Wikipedia is often anonymous and lacks a formal review process.

Print book and an e-reader on a wooden table.Consult books and e-books to gather comprehensive, in-depth analysis of a subject. E-books are the electronic versions of books that you can access anywhere anytime using proper authentication. Some types of books include:

  • Monographs (often a single author writing on a single topic)
  • Series (multiple volumes published over time on a specific topics or area of study)
  • Anthologies (collections of content on a single topic)
  • Textbooks (contain facts, theories, and knowledge on a particular subject)

Note: Although books are important in the research process, know that there is a long gap of time between writing and publishing books and therefore you may not find the most current information on a topic.

More Research Skills Guides

Want to learn more? View our other research skills guides:

MC Library Research Skills Guides