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Use Reference Sources, such as encyclopedias, to get a general overview of your topic. Reference sources are not intended to be read cover-to-cover, but rather provide you with more concise information as you begin to explore a topic. Reference sources generally provide several things:
- Background information about a topic.
- Brief, factual overviews of topics.
- Information about important dates, events, and people associated with a topic.
- Terminology and definitions of terms related to a topic.
- Articles written by authors with expertise in the subject matter.
- Bibliographies of sources for further reading.
Useful Encyclopedias & Dictionaries
The following online encyclopedias and dictionaries are available to you from both on- and off-campus. For off-campus access, use your University logon and password (the same logon/password you use to log onto the campus computer lab computers).
GALE Virtual Reference Library
Select "Religion" from the menu at the left. Provides access to numerous online encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia of Religion, the Encyclopedia of Buddhism, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Encyclopaedia of Judaica, Encyclopedia of Religion in America, and Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religion (8th ed.)
Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Encompassing over 5,000 A-Z reference entries, chapters from scholarly and introductory works, Qur’anic materials, primary sources, images, maps, and timelines, Oxford Islamic Studies Online offers a multi-layered reference experience designed to provide a first stop for anyone needing information and context on Islam. Includes information on Islam in the United States.
These two reference sources are currently only available to you in print. They are both available for curbside pickup.
For information about curbside pickup of books and audiovisual materials in the library, click here.
Searching for Reference Sources
Different types of reference sources answer different types of questions.
These are common types of reference sources for research in Religious Studies:
- Atlas - Maps and geographical information.
- Dictionary - Definitions of terms, either general or in relation to a specific subject or discipline.
- Encyclopedia - Comprehensive summaries of factual information, providing more detail than a dictionary.
- Handbook - Concise explanatory information on a topic.
To find reference books on a particular topic, tradition, etc., try a search like this in GILFind, the library's catalog, using the Advanced Search option:
"Encyclopedia," "dictionary," and "handbook" are all terms that will point you towards reference books.
The ORs connecting those terms mean that you are asking for all results that include any of those three words.
If you had linked them with AND, you would only get results that used ALL of those three words.
The AND connecting the two search boxes means that you are asking for results that include
any of the three terms in the first box AND the term in the second box.
(Click on the image to see the results of this search!)