General Reference Books and Websites

Reference materials are essential in researching topics, especially for researching academic papers.

Reference Materials on the Web

Reference resources are moving quickly onto the Web. What follows is a current list of the key reference resources we’ve found on the Web.

This section is divided as follows:

  1. Libraries on the Web
  2. General Reference Material on the Web
  3. Dictionaries and Other Writing Resources on the Web
  4. Other Collections of Reference Sites on the Web

Reference Books in Print

Reference books have come to mean a specific kind of publication in which you can find certain types of information. These books contain facts compiled from many sources and are organized for quick and easy use. They include encyclopedias; dictionaries; yearbooks, almanacs,and handbooks; biographies; atlases; and indexes. Each of these reference materials has a different purpose in your research quest, which we’ll explain as we introduce each one of them.

We’ve categorized this site as follows:

Encyclopedias Dictionaries
Yearbooks/Almanacs Biographies
Atlases Indexes


  • Academic American Encyclopedia (Grolier Educational Corporation)
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia (Hurtig Publishers, Ltd.)
  • Chambers Encyclopedia (Pergamon Press)
  • Collier’s Encyclopedia (Macmillan Educational Corporation)
  • The New Encyclopedia Britannica (Encyclopedia Britannica)
  • The Encyclopedia Americana (Grolier Educational Corporation)
  • The New Columbia Encyclopedia (Columbia University Press)
  • The Random House Encyclopedia (Random House)
  • The World Book Encyclopedia (World Book, Inc.)


  • A Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles (University of Chicago Press)
  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Houghton Mifflin Company)
  • Funk & Wagnalls New International Dictionary of the English Language (World Publishing)
  • The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press)
  • The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Random House)
  • Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (Merriam Webster)
  • Webster’s New World Dictionary (Prentice Hall)

Yearbooks, Handbooks, and Almanacs

  • Americana Annual (Grolier, Inc.)
  • Britannica Book of the Year (Encyclopedia Britannica)
  • Famous First Facts (H.W. Wilson Company)
  • Information Please Almanac, Atlas & Yearbook (Information Please Publishing Company)
  • Washington Information Directory (Congressional Quarterly, Inc.)
  • Webster’s Dictionary of Proper Names (Merriam Webster)
  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts (Newspaper Enterprise Association, Inc.)
  • Thomas’ Register of American Manufacturers (Thomas Publishing Company)


  • Almanac of American Women in the 20th Century (Prentice Hall)
  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge University Press)
  • International Dictionary of 20th-Century Biography (New American Library)
  • McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography (McGraw-Hill)
  • New Century Cyclopedia of Names (Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.)
  • Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary (Merriam Webster)


  • Hammond Atlas of the World (Hammond)
  • National Atlas of the United States of America (National Geographic)
  • National Geographic Atlas of the World (National Geographic)
  • The Prentice-Hall Great International Atlas (Prentice Hall)
  • The Times Atlas of the World (Times Books)


  • America: History & Life (ABC-Clio). Abstracts articles on the history of the United States and Canada published throughout the world. From 1964 to present.
  • Applied Science and Technology Index (H.W. Wilson). Covers approximately 335 periodicals in the fields of aeronautics and space science, automation, chemistry, computer technology, electricity, mathematics, physics, telecommunications, and related subjects. From 1958 to present.
  • Art Index (H.W. Wilson). Indexes publications in the fields of archaeology, architecture, art history, city planning, design, graphic arts, landscape architecture, photography and films, and related subjects. From 1929 to present.
  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Institute for Scientific Information). A multidisciplinary index of more than 6,000 journals to the literature of the arts and humanities. From 1976 to present.
  • Biography Index (H.W. Wilson). A cumulative index to biographical material found in books and magazines. From 1946 to present.
  • Biological Abstracts (BioSciences Information Service). Provides indexing and abstracts of worldwide research in biology. From 1926 to present.
  • Biological & Agricultural Index (H.W. Wilson). A cumulative subject index to periodicals in the fields of biology, agriculture, and related sciences. From 1964 to present.
  • Book Review Digest (H.W. Wilson). A digest and index of selected book reviews in about 75 English and American general-interest periodicals. From 1905 to present.
  • Book Review Index (Gale Research Company). Indexes book reviews appearing in about 450 periodicals. From 1965 to present.
  • Business Periodicals Index (H.W. Wilson). Indexes about 350 journals in business, finance and investment, advertising and public relations, accounting, insurance, labor and management, and economics. From 1958 to present.
  • Chemical Abstracts (American Chemical Society). Detailed abstracting of documents from publications in more than 50 languages. From 1907 to present.
  • Computer Literature Index (Applied Computer Research). Indexes computer-related trade publications, general business periodicals, and publications of computer and management-oriented professional societies. From 1980 to present.
  • Current Index to Journals in Education (Oryx). Published as part of the U.S. Office of Education’s Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) program, this service provides indexing for articles in more than 800 education journals. From 1969 to present.
  • Economic Literature Index (American Economic Association). Indexes articles from more than 340 journals in economics. From 1969 to present.
  • Education Index (H.W. Wilson). A cumulative author/subject index to a selected list of educational periodicals and yearbooks. From 1929 to present.
  • Environmental Abstracts (Environment Information Center, Inc.). An indexing and abstracting source covering both print and nonprint materials related to environmental issues. From 1971 to present.
  • Essay and General Literature Index (H.W. Wilson). Often referred to as Essay Index, it emphasizes articles in the humanities and social sciences. From 1934 to present.
  • Facts on File: World News Digest with Index (Facts on File). A weekly digest of news arranged under mainly geographical headings. From 1940 to present.
  • General Science Index (H.W. Wilson). Indexes more than 100 general science periodicals not completely covered by other indexes. From 1978 to present.
  • Higher Education Abstracts (Claremont Graduate School). Abstracts some 120 scholarly journals, as well as conference papers and monographs. From 1984 to present.
  • Humanities Index (H.W. Wilson). Subject fields indexed include archaeology and classical studies, area studies, folklore, history, language and literature, performing arts, philosophy, religion, theology, and related subjects. From 1974 to present.
  • INSPEC (Institution of Electrical Engineers). Provides access to literature about physics, electrical engineering, electronics, and computing. From 1969 to present.
  • International Political Science Abstracts (International Political Science Association). Offers abstracts to articles selected from more than 1,000 international journals. From 1951 to present.
  • Magazine Index (Information Access Corporation). Indexes roughly 435 popular periodicals. From 1976 to present.
  • MLA International Bibliography (Modern Language Association of America). Indexes books and articles on modern languages and literature. From 1921 to the present.
  • NewsBank Index (NewsBank, Inc.) Indexes articles focusing on socioeconomic, political, international, and scientific fields from more than 100 U.S. newspapers. From 1982 to present.
  • PAIS International in Print (Public Affairs Information Service Inc.). An interdisciplinary, international index to periodicals relating to public issues and policy. From 1991 to present.
  • Philosopher’s Index (Bowling Green University). Indexes and abstracts an international collection of books, periodicals, monographs, and dissertations related to philosophy. From 1967 to present.
  • Psychological Abstracts (American Psychological Association). Comprehensive index to the literature of psychology, indexing more than 1,200 periodicals. From 1927 to present.
  • Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (H.W. Wilson). A cumulative index covering approximately 174 periodicals of general interest. From 1901 to present.
  • Resources in Education (U.S. Government Printing Office). Contains abstracts of items in the ERIC collection of some 400,000 research reports, papers from professional meetings, government documents, and related materials. Does not index journal articles. From 1975 to present.
  • Science Abstracts (Institution of Electrical Engineers). Coverage is international and includes periodicals, reports, books, dissertations, conference papers, and patents related to the sciences. From 1967 to present.
  • Social Science Citation Index (Institute for Scientific Information). An international interdisciplinary index to literature of the social, behavioral, and related sciences. From 1973 to present.
  • Social Sciences Index (H.W. Wilson). Author and subject index to periodicals in the fields of anthropology, area studies, community health and medical care, economics, family studies, minority studies, social work, sociology, and related subjects. From 1974 to present.
  • Sociological Abstracts (Sociological Abstracts, Inc.). Provides indexing and abstracts from international sources on sociology and related disciplines. From 1953 to present.
  • Women Studies Abstracts (Rush Publishing Company). Abstracts articles from 35 journals covering a wide range of subjects related to women’s studies. From 1972 to present.