chat loading...
Skip to main content

Library 101: Reference Resources

Did you know...?

Computer monitor with books on shelf on screen and in background

That Molloy College has over 1500 titles of online reference resources?


Use Credo Reference to find:

Other Recommended Online Resources

Types of Encyclopedias

General Encyclopedas

World Book Encyclopedia set

General encyclopedias provide information about nearly every topic. Using an encyclopedia is an effective way to quickly get a broad overview of a subject. Some encyclopedias will provide more in-depth information than others; however, any general encyclopedia is a good source to consult for background information of your chosen subject area. Most encyclopedias provide the following:

  • Main concepts 
  • Titles of important books written about topic
  • Names of authors who have written about topic
  • Keywords and subject terms related to topic
  • Lists of related articles or additional resources

Subject Specific Encyclopedias


Subject-specific encyclopedias are important background sources for information. Unlike general encyclopedias which cover a wide range of topics, subject-specific encyclopedias focus their information in one particular subject area. Some features of subject-specific encyclopedias include:

  • Detailed articles written by experts within a field 
  • Extensive and comprehensive bibliographies of important resources
  • You'd be amazed how many different types of subject specific dictionaries and encyclopedias there are.

Why & When to Use Reference Resources:

Laptop on top of a stack of booksWhy & When to Use Reference Resources:

Reference resources cannot be checked out of the library, but really, you'd rarely want to do so anyhow. These types of resources provide quick information on a person, place or thing and are often a great starting point for research.

In many instances, you'll only be interested in a paragraph or page or two of information; this can be photocopied while on the premises.



Types of Reference Materials

Subjects and Keywords

Illustration of a filterGeneral Search Strategies

  • Start broad and pare down - it is always easier to narrow a large amount of results than it is to increase
  • Use subject hyperlinks whenever possible - this will help you to navigate throughout the catalog and databases
  • Limit the amount of words when phrase searching - you really should not enter more than three words; if it's an actual phrase, put quotes around it.
  • If you are using boolean operators such as AND or OR - remember that AND will limit results and OR will increase results
  • Call numbers are utilizing the Library of Congress classfication system - which basically is a good thing because subjects are grouped together - so once you find one good book, you will likely see similar related titles to the left and right of it.

Once you have entered keywords and have a list of results

TIP #1: once you have your results, sometimes it is helpful to set the SORT BY dropdown to Date (Newest First)

TIP #2: changing the format on the left hand side to ALL FORMATS will bring up available articles within the same subject area

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia logo

Why is it that so many Professors frown upon the use of Wikipedia?

Although some people within the Wikipedia community fastidiously monitor and fact check various subject areas, by and large anyone can add content. This is problematic because the information - even if it is both factual and credible - in many cases cannot be verified by the Professor.

The American Journalism Review states:

"...the primary knock against Wikipedia is that its authors and editors are also its users — an unpaid, partially anonymous army, some of whom insert jokes, exaggeration and even outright lies in their material. About one-fifth of the editing is done by anonymous users, but a tight-knit community of 600 to 1,000 volunteers does the bulk of the work, according to Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales. Members of this group can delete material or, in extreme cases, even lock particularly outrageous entries while they are massaged"

So while the controversy rages on, the best piece of advice is DO NOT CITE Wikipedia articles in your research; however, Wikipedia (much like Google) is often a great place to gather basic information as well as offers fertile ground for acquiring keywords to use in vetted subscription databases.