Reference works are an excellent first stop in your research and are incredibly useful for the following:
Reference works are a good starting off point, but should not be cited in your research as they are not considered primary or secondary sources. The only exception is when reference works contain primary and secondary sources (like collections of documents and essays).
Scholarly subject encyclopedias provide in-depth information about a specific topic. Entries or articles, written by scholars or subject experts, include bibliographies or suggested readings that will lead to more information on your topic.
Use subject encyclopedias for basic background reading, to find a topic, or to identify keywords in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
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Encyclopedias and dictionaries provide background information on a variety of topics. Those with a call number starting with REF are on the 2nd floor and all others are in the stacks by their call number. Anything without a call number is an electronic resource.
Bibliographies point you to the key works on specific subjects.