Items from our Reference collection can be used to explore and develop your topic, to supply background knowledge, and assist with fact-checking.
Reference books can get you started quickly in practically any subject. They may be online or printed volumes in the reference collections in either the Linderman Library Reading Room or the Main floor reference area in Fairchild Martindale Library.
Reference books have several different genres--encyclopedias, dictionaries, gazeteers, guides, atlases, handbooks, and companions. Gazeteers are geographical dictionaries. Handbooks or guides often introduce whole disciplines, such as the Harvard Guide to American History. Companions address particular topics like the Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance. Reference materials are likely to be in printed form, online or possibly in both formats.
To find suitable sources for your topic go to the ASA online catalog and select Advanced Search. One method is to enter a genre in the first search window, such as encyclopedia. You can search this either in "All Fields" or a title keyword. In the second window try terms like these: medieval or "middle ages", again as a "All Fields" . Quotation marks retrieve words adjacent to each other in that order. The OR gives you one, the other, or both. You can also ask for assistance at the HelpDesk or contact the Humanities or Social Sciences librarians.
A major reference work which can help you identify important works on your topic is the American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature. This 2 volume reference set is located in Linderman Library, Reference Collection, call number: 016.9 A512.