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How and why to use reference sources or background sources
Reference sources (otherwise known as reference resources, or background sources) are designed to help you find specific types of information quickly.
Use reference sources to:
- get keywords and names for more effective advanced searching
- read a quick overview of a new subject
- find key facts and background information that will help you assess other resources
- learn definitions of important words or concepts
- see suggestions for more sources about your topic (including the best-known sources).
Use reference sources before launching into more detailed sources like journal articles and books -- and check back as you dig more deeply into your topic.
What kind of reference source do you need?
Not sure where to begin? Here are some quick definitions of the different types:
Subject-specific reference sources
For recommendations from subject-specialist librarians, check the Background information tab in our research and course guides.