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Reference Shelf   Tags: background, help, reference, subject  

Find reference materials including online encyclopedias, general interest databases, background resources, and more!
Last Updated: Jun 11, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Reference Shelf Print Page

Reference Books (Print)

Reference books include encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and readers. The Purchase College reference collection goes beyond World Book and Britannica-- we have reference books tailored to specific disciplines, majors, or topics. In our catalog, you can find reference materials covering human rights issues, herbal medicine, art history, musical theater, cinema, opera, and much more!  

Reference books are shelved in our Main Stacks according to subject using Library of Congress call numbers. That means you can find the Encyclopedia of Sociology on the shelf next to other books about sociology. Some reference books are circulating (you can check them out of the library), others are non-circulating (you can scan or read them while in the library).

Ready-reference books like citation style manuals, dictionaries, thesauruses, and almanacs can be found on the shelf at the Reference Desk for quick use.


Tips for finding reference books

To look up a reference book, use the Library Catalog to find the call number (print) or the link (ebook).

You can search for a specific title (i.e.: "Oxford English Dictionary") or try general search terms like "thesaurus" or "dictionary."

If you're doing research in a specific discpline, search for keywords and add search terms like "handbook," "encyclopedia," or "reference" to your search.

immigration AND handbook

encyclopedia AND "gender studies" 

theater AND reference

Most reference books are in the Main Stacks on the Lower Level.  Art, photography and oversized reference books are on the second floor (N and TR sections)

General Reference Resources Online (ebooks, databases, etc)

The Library has plenty of reference materials online including general interest databases, ebooks, online encyclopedias, and other reference resources to find background or overview information about your research topic. Using online reference resources like Credo Reference, Gale Virtual Reference Library, or Oxford Reference Online can provide quick--and credible!-- answers. 

  • Credo Reference
    Contains the full text of hundreds of reference books covering every major topic, including art, medicine, history, technology, social sciences, literature, music and geography; along with images, customizable data, visual concept maps of results, sound, maps, and more.
  • Oxford Reference Online  
    Collects language and subject dictionaries and other reference works. Topical coverage includes general reference, language, science, humanities, social sciences, business and professional.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library
    A plethora of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multi-disciplinary research. Contains full text.
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context
    Covers social issues and current event topics. Presents the facts, as well as the arguments, of a topic's proponents and detractors. Includes viewpoint articles, contextual topic overviews, government and organizational statistics, biographies of social activists, court cases, profiles of government agencies and special interest groups, newspaper and magazines articles. Contains full text.
  • Oxford English Dictionary
    A complete online version of the OED's 20 volume Second Edition and 3 volume Additions Series. Provides a guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over 500,000 words and traces their usage through 2.5 million quotations from a wide range of international English language sources.

Music Reference Resources

  • Oxford Music Online  
    Access Grove Music Online, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Oxford Companion to Music. Search funcationality includes subject and historical period filters tailored to suit the content of each work.
  • African American Music Reference
    Brings together reference texts, biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner notes, and discographies which chronicle the diverse history and culture of the African American experience through music. The database includes comprehensive coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and more.
  • The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online
    Each of the 10 volumes contains an overview of the region, a survey of its musical heritage, traditions and themes; and a description of specific musical genres, practices, and performances. Articles include detailed photographs that show musicians, musical instrument, and the cultural context of dances, rituals, and ceremonies. Other images include drawings, maps, and musical examples for further study.

Art Reference Resources

  • Oxford Art Online  
    Access Grove Art Online, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Includes more than 5,000 images from the texts, and from places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Art Images for College Teaching (AICT), and the Artists Rights Society.
  • Dictionary of Art Historians
    From Duke University, this is a free online biographical dictionary of historic scholars, museum professionals and academic historians of Art. Intended as a beginning point to learning the background of major art historians of western art history.
  • Thames and Hudson Encyclopedia of the Italian Renaissance
    Ebook/online encyclopedia about art during the Italian Renaissance.
  • Encyclopedia of American Folk Art
    Includes 600 articles with bibliographies concerning American folk art. Written by 92 specialists in association with the American Folk Art Museum.

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