Basic Information Sources

The sources listed in each category below are a selection of those in the Cornette Library Reference Collection. Consult the online catalog to determine if the Library owns basic information sources on other topics.


General Encyclopedias

General encyclopedias are intended for a general audience. They may be written for different ages and reading levels. For instance, The World Book Encyclopedia is intended primarily for late childhood through young adulthood, while The New Encyclopaedia Britannica is intended for an adult audience. The index directs you to the appropriate volume and page number in the set. Since a subject may not be treated separately in its own article, use the index to find out where it is located in the set. The index may also refer to related topics. Articles may include brief bibliographies, which refer to other sources of information. Usually the last volume in a set of general encyclopedias contains an index. Encyclopedias are often supplemented by yearbooks or annuals published yearly containing information on significant events of the year. With the exception of the online editions, these encyclopedias are located on the encyclopedia tables near the Reference Desk.

Subject Encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias provide more in-depth, scholarly articles, which focus on a specific subject or discipline. The articles, usually written by scholars, often refer to key sources on the article's subject. Some are single volumes, while others are published in multivolume sets. Subject encyclopedias may be updated by supplements. Sometimes the word dictionary appears in the title, but the length of the articles indicate that the work is really an encyclopedia. Again remember to consult the index to locate information on a topic.

Subject encyclopedias are an excellent place to start research. As sources, they are often overlooked. While they may not be included in a bibliography for a research paper, they provide information like names, dates, terms, and concepts that lead further into research on a topic.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life
GN333 .W67 1998 Reference
Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa
DT2 .E53 1996 Reference
Encyclopedia of Human Biology
QP11 .E53 1991 Reference
Guinness Encyclopedia of Pop Music
ML102 .P66 G84 1995 Reference
Grove Dictionary of Art
N31 .D5 1996 Reference
Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs
QE862 .D5 E53 1997 Reference
Encyclopedia of Agricultural Science
S411 .E713 1994 Reference
Encyclopedia of Sports Science
GV558 .E53 1997 Reference
Dictionary of Literary Biography
PS221 .D5 Reference Biography
The American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History
E174 .A535 1998 Reference

Dictionaries & Glossaries

Dictionaries usually offer definitions, pronunciation, parts of speech, syllabication (division of words into syllables), variations in spelling, and usage of words. Some also provide information on the etymology (origin or history) of words. General dictionaries may be illustrated and contain special features like lists of proper names, maps, and tables of weights and measures. Unabridged dictionaries are large in size because they include all words in use at the time the dictionary is compiled. Abridged or desk and collegiate dictionaries are smaller and include only a selection of words. Foreign language dictionaries focus on a different language, perhaps French or German. Bilingual or multilingual dictionaries provide corresponding words in different languages. As with encyclopedias, dictionaries may also focus on a specific subject or discipline. Glossaries are dictionaries or lists of specialized words.

General Dictionaries

The Oxford English Dictionary
PE1625 .O87 1989 Reference
Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged
Ask at the Reference Desk
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
PE1628 .A623 2000 Reference
The Random House College Dictionary
PE1625 .R34 1975 Reference

Foreign Language, Bilingual, & Multilingual Dictionaries

Oxford Latin Dictionary
PA2365.E5 O9 1982 Reference
Collins German-English, English-German Dictionary
PF3640 .C68 1993 Reference
Dictionary of Agriculture in Six Languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian
S411 .H2613 1986 Reference

Subject Dictionaries & Glossaries

Dictionary of Multicultural Education
LC1099 .D53 1997 Reference
Black's Law Dictionary
KF156 .B53 1999 Reference
Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion
B41 .R43 1996 Reference
Dictionary of International Business Terms
HD62.4 .S524 1998 Reference
Stedman's Medical Dictionary
R121 .S8 1995 Reference
A Glossary of Literary Terms
PN44.5 .A2 1999 Reference


Almanacs offer concise factual information about many subjects including current and historical events, people, weather, politics, associations and societies, countries, awards and prizes, holidays, cities and countries, disasters, postal rates, economy and business, astronomy, inventions, and statistics. They are usually published annually. Some almanacs, like The World Almanac or Information Please Almanac, are general in nature, while others, like the Texas Almanac, focus on a specific subject area.

Information Please Almanac, Atlas and Yearbook
AY64 .I55 Reference (The latest edition is at the Reference Desk.)
The World Almanac and Book of Facts
AY67.N5 W7 Reference (The latest edition is at the Reference Desk
Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide
AY311 .D3 T5 Reference (The latest edition is at the Reference Desk.


In general, directories are used to locate people, organizations, institutions, businesses, products, or services. They are usually arranged alphabetically or by subject or type and contain addresses, phone numbers, and other identifying information.

The World of Learning
AS2 .W6 Reference (Reference Desk)
Black Americans Information Directory
E185.5 B513 Reference
Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives
HG4057 .A4 Reference
Encyclopedia of Associations
HS17 .G33 Reference (Reference Desk)
Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market: Where and How to Sell Your Illustration, Fine Art, Graphic Design and Cartoons
NC999 .A7 Reference
Allied Health Education Directory
R847 .D57 Reference
The Foundation Directory
AS911 .A2 F65 Reference
Conservation Directory
S920 .C64 Reference
Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media
Z6951 .A97 Reference


General encyclopedias are often accompanied by yearbooks providing information on significant events of the year. Yearbooks are also published on their own. They provide facts and statistics on a specific subject or topic, usually for the previous year. For instance The Europa World Year Book is a gold mine of information on the government, events, economy, history, and foreign relations of countries around the world.

Facts on File Yearbook
D410 .F3 Reference
Year-Book of Labour Statistics
HD4826 .I63 Reference
The Europa World Year Book
JN1 .E85 Reference
The Municipal Year Book
JS342.A2 I52 Reference
Educational Media and Technology Yearbook
LB1028.3 .E37 Reference


Handbooks are guides to a subject and contain a large amount of information often presented in tables, charts, graphs, and illustrations. They are generally intended for practitioners in a particular field like chemistry or engineering.

CRC Handbook of Marine Science
GC24 S64 Reference
CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
QD65 .H3 Reference
CRC Handbook of Pesticides
SB961 .C49 1995 Reference
Handbook of Human Factors
TA166 .H275 1987 Reference
Standard Handbook of Environmental Engineering
TD145 .S72 1990 Reference
Federal Tax Handbook
KF6289 .R523 Reference


Atlases offer collections of maps bound together. They may cover the world, a specific region like the Middle East or Europe, an event such as World War II, or a subject or theme like the economy or ethnic diversity. Atlases are often large in size and may be shelved separately from the remainder of the reference collection.

Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Soviet Union
DK32 .M62 1989 Reference
National Geographic Atlas of the World
G1021 .N38 1992 Reference Atlases
The Times Atlas of the Second World War
G1038 .T6 1989 Reference Atlases
Rand McNally Commercial Atlas & Marketing Guide
G1019 .R22 Reference Atlases
The State Atlas of Political and Cultural Diversity
G1201 .E25 L5 1996 Reference


Gazetteers list geographical names and features, usually in alphabetical order, and provide locational information. Some describe the history, population, and altitude of a place. Gazetteers are published separately or are included in atlases. Sometimes these sources are called geographical dictionaries.

Texas Gazetteer
F384 .T39 1985 Reference
The Columbia Gazetteer of the World
G103.5 .C645 1998 Reference
Cambridge World Gazetteer
G103.5 .C44 1990 Reference
Webster's New Geographical Dictionary
G103.5 .W42 1988 Reference