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Course: History 1 Mexico: Finding a reference source

Getting started

Once you have analyzed your primary source, it's handy to get an overview of your topic in a reference source. By carefully reading a detailed reference article you can get a solid grounding on the facts or background of an event, person, or time period, gather keywords, names, and dates for further searching, and use the Selected Bibliography to start gathering your secondary sources.

Why use a reference source?

  • To ground research in a basic understanding from an authoritative source.

  • To learn the basics

  • To lead us to different sources via

    • keywords to use in other searches

    • linked entries (for e-sources)

    • bibliographies

Finding a reference source

To search multiple Encyclopedias at once use these links:


This two-volume encyclopedia is only available in print. It is available in the UHS library:

Citing your reference source

What is a reference source?

A reference source will give you a quick and simple overview of a subject. It will probably be an article in a large book or database. It is organized to include:

  • definitions, synonyms
  • basic factual information
  • overview or guide to a subject
  • maps
  • statistics, charts, tables

Working with Reference Sources

Recognizing a reference source

Reference works can be print books, ebooks or databases (a database is a collection of pre-selected resources). They will often have one of these words in the title:

  • Almanac
  • Atlas
  • Dictionary or Biographical Dictionary
  • Directory
  • Encyclopedia
  • Factbook
  • Gazetteer (a geographical dictionary)
  • Handbook
  • Statistics
  • Thesaurus
  • Yearbook