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LS 102 Course Materials

Introduction to Information Research

Developing Your Topic

Browsing for Ideas

Background resources such as encyclopedias and handbooks are great tools to use when you're browsing for research ideas because they can:

  • give you the bigger picture of the subject area
  • give you the history of that subject--what has been accepted through years of research and study
  • form a strong foundation on which to build your research
  • provides keywords that will assist you finding more information

Reference Works

Reference works are designed to give the reader a general introduction or overview of a subject. The Reference Department is a microcosm of the library as there are materials available covering all disciplines. There are many types of reference sources available. A few of the more common types are listed below from the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science, 1983.

Almanac: A compendium (a written work containing the substance of a subject in brief), usually an annual, of statistics and facts.

Example:  World Almanac and Book of Facts

Location:  Reference Room Ready Reference, AY67 .N5 W7

Example:  Information Please Almanacs



Atlas:  A volume of maps, plates, engravings, tables, etc..

Example:  Times Atlas of the World 

Location:  Reference Room Atlas Case, G1021 .T55 1999

Example:  National Atlas of the United States



Bibliography: A list of works (books, articles, documents, or other items), usually with some relationship between them. (e.g., by given author, on a given subject). It differs from a catalog in that its contents are not restricted to the holdings of a single collection, library or group of libraries.

Example:  Louisiana History: An Annotated Bibliography

Location:  Reference Room Stacks, F369 .J86 2002

Example:  Vietnam War Bibliography



Biography:   Accounts of the lives and accomplishments of famous or infamous people.

Example:  Current Biography Yearbook

Location:  Reference Room Stacks, CT100 .C8

Example:  Biography Resource Center



Dictionary: An alphabetic work that defines words or terms, sometimes on a central theme.

Example:  The Civil War Dictionary

Location:  Reference Room Stacks, E468 .B7


Directory: A listing of persons, organizations, or companies, systematically arranged, usually in alphabetic or classed order, giving address, affiliation, etc.

Example:  Higher Education Directory

Location:  Reference Room Stacks, L901 .H46 21st 2003

Example:  American Hospital Directory



Encyclopedia: A book or set of books containing informational articles on subjects in every field of knowledge, usually arranged in alphabetic order, or a similar work limited to a special field or subject.  Encyclopedias can be general or specialized for a specific subject area.

Example:  Encyclopedia Americana (general encyclopedia)

Location:  Reference Room Ready Reference, AE5 .E333

Example:  Catholic Encyclopedia (specialized encyclopedia)



Index: An alphabetical list of articles in periodicals, and other works, which may be arranged by subject and/or author.

Example:  Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature

Location:  Reference Room Ready Reference, AI3 .R48

Example:  Bayou State Periodical Index



Literary Criticism: Critical analysis of authors and their works.

Example:  Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism vol. 5

Location:  Reference Room Stacks, PN761 .N5

Example:  Literature Resource Center


Style Manual: Guidelines for citing sources, footnoting, designing term papers and bibliographies including rules about punctuation, spacing, etc.

Example:  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

Location:  Reference Room Ready Reference, LB2369 .G53 2003


A reliable list of online reference sources is available @