Art History: Reference Works

Why Reference Works?

Reference works are an excellent first stop in your research and are incredibly useful for the following:

  • Getting an overview of a topic
  • Getting topic ideas for a paper topic or narrowing your topic
  • Brainstorming keywords for searching and learning the vocabulary used by authors in that area
  • Learning the key works on a given topic
  • Discovering the key authors on a given topic

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).


Bibliographies point you to the key works on specific subjects. 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.


Online Subject Encyclopedias

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.


Search for Subject Encyclopedias (PSU Only)

Enter a topic below

Online Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Selected Print Dictionaries and Encyclopedias