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Literature and Criticism: Finding Background Information: Reference Materials

Finding Background Information: Reference Materials

Reference books (both in print and electronic versions) include dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, directories, manuals, handbooks, and much more. Reference books can help you to:

  • Explore a topic: find out what has been said about this subject, trends, issues, etc.
  • Identify unfamiliar terms or people in your reading
  • Find references to other books and articles on the subject
  • Find specific keywords to use in online searches
  • Oxford Reference Online

    Contains online versions of dictionaries and encyclopedias previously published in paper by Oxford University Press.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online

    The Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past.
  • Reference Resources on British History

    See librarian Agnes Widder's guides to various periods of British history for specific reference resources.
  • Resources for American Studies

    Librarian Mike Unsworth's subject guide includes reference resources.
  • Interdiscplinary Books in Reference:

    For quick look-ups, and overviews that contain citations for other resources.
  • Encyclopedia of American History (Facts on File)

    A guide to the most important individuals, events, and topics in U.S. history.
  • Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History

    Contains thorough entries on all aspects of American thought and expression throughout history.
  • Encyclopedia of American Social History

    This 3-volume set covers all aspects of social history such as family life, work life and labor, education, and more.
  • American Decades

    This multi-volume set is an excellent guide to various decades in American history. Covers such topics as key events and people, social trends, business and economic activity, education, arts, religion, and much more.