JET LibGuides logo

Skip to Main Content

Library 101

Get to the know the library

This page will provide information on the different types of information resources and how to use them. The first table addresses the various types of serials (aka: journals, magazines etc), what they are and when the are best applied to an aspect of research. The table below that describes the different types of physical and online reference resources, along with search strategies and examples from the catalog. 

Different types of resources (periodicals/serials)

Type and Components Scholarly/Academic Popular Magazines Trade Journals Newspapers
Example: Chemical Engineering Journal Newsweek Advertising Age The New York Times
Author: Scholar in field, academic, or researcher   Staff Writer, journalist, often a generalist Staff writer, journalist often with expertise in field   Staff Writer, Journalist
Credit/Sources:  Always many references and/or footnotes Rarely cites sources, original sources may be obscure Rarely cites sources Rarely cites sources
Structure of Articles: long (10+ page) articles with sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion Brief articles, unless feature    Brief article, unless feature Brief article, unless feature
Look & Feel: "Looks like a book." No color, no ads even in online versions Glossy, graphics, full page advertisements even online versions Glossy, graphics, advertisements, many are large format or online Newsprint or online

Content courtesy Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Tips for Using Reference Resources

Reference sources, in print and electronic form, are intended to provide quick look-up information. In the JET Library, many current reference books are kept in the Reference collection located in the main room of the library, while other reference books are kept in the library's main book stacks. Some reference databases are accessible through subscriptions paid for by the Library and some reference books are available full text through our catalog or eBookCentral.


The library has many subject-specifc reference books. To identify sources that may be helpful to you, try a search in this Catalog Search that has already been limited to reference materials in the Library. You can combine (using "and") a keyword or phrase representing your topic with a keyword for the type of reference book you want to find.


  • health and statistics
  • science and dictionaries
  • psychology and encyclopedias
  • New York and maps

Another way to identify books in the library's reference collection is to use a Keyword search for a subject keyword or phrase, limiting your search by Location.

These are the most commonly-used type of reference sources:

Type of Source Contains Examples
bibliography Lists of books, journal articles, conference papers or technical documents on a particular topic Bibliography of American Literature
Nursing, a historical bibliography
A bibliography of printed battle plans of the American Revolution
biography Information the people's lives Mandela: the authorized portrait
dictionaries Word definitions, origins and pronunciations Black's Law Dictionary
American Psychiatric Glossary
directories Contact information for organizations or individuals Directory of schools for alternative and complementary health care
International Organizations: a dictionary and directory
encyclopedias Descriptions of historical figures and events, scientific and technical concepts, natural phenomena, etc. Encyclopedia of religion in America
Encyclopedia of heavy metal music
handbooks Concise presentation of information essential to a process Handbook of clinical audiology
Entertainment, media & advertising market research handbook
Loosening the grip: a handbook of alcohol information
identification Portable book for field use A field guide to coastal fishes: from Maine to Texas
indexes Bibliographic description (citation, sometimes abstracts) for periodical articles, book chapters, conference papers, and other collections. Magill index to masterplots: cumulative indexes 1963-1990
The Columbia Granger's index to poetry
maps Pictorial model of a space Atlas of histology: with functional and clinical correlations
Student atlas of world politics

Layout and some information for this section courtesy of Oregon Tech Libraries

How resources are best used:

To find background information or an overview of a topic:

  • Books
  • Encyclopedias

To find up-to-date information on current events:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines

To find scholarly information on a topic:

  • Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Journals

To find additional sources within bibliographies or footnotes:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Encyclopedias

To discover new research ideas, emerging trends, or to gain an historical perspective on research:

  • Conference Proceedings
  • Technical Reports
  • Theses & Dissertations

To find current news, products, and trends within a specific trade or industry or practical information from practitioners:

  • Trade Journals