Show Me ©
Information Literacy Modules
  • What is a reference work?

    A reference source (print or online) is organized for quick access (e.g., alphabetically, by date, by geographic region) to brief information, statistics or maps.

    The title may include a word like:

    • Almanac
    • Atlas
    • Dictionary
    • Encyclopedia
    • Factbook
    • Handbook
    • Quotations
    • Yearbook

    Tip: While it may be used for reference, a textbook is usually cited as a book.

  • How do I evaluate contributors to a reference source?

    A reference source is usually compiled by many people. Look for procedures that encourage contributors to produce quality work:

    • Are contributors required to use their real names?
    • Can contributors earn additional responsibilities based on their work?
    • Are contributions fact checked and polished by an editor?

    If contributors are identified, their expertise and credentials should relate to your subject. A credible author or subject editor might:

    • Have a degree in this subject
    • Study or do research on this topic
    • Work in a related field

  • How do I evaluate an entry's objectivity?

    A reference work provides a balanced view of a topic.

    • Are issues explained in neutral language?
    • Are statistics and evidence given for all viewpoints?
    • Do the conclusions follow logically from the analysis?

  • How do I evaluate an entry's currency?

    If current information is important to understanding your topic, check the following:

    • When was the entry published?
    • How current are the sources in the bibliography?
    • What is the latest date used in the article?

    Corroborate: Fact-check the content in media that tend to be current (e.g., news, blogs, magazines, and web pages).

  • How do I fact-check a quote?

    Quotes are typically hard to verify. A quotation database may provide the author but not the source of a quote. The quote may be incorrectly worded or attributed to the wrong person.

    Search inside an author's published books to verify a quote.

  • How do I evaluate a Wikipedia entry?

    Wikipedia's goal is to compile a free encyclopedia of all human knowledge written from a neutral point of view:

    • Is the language objective and unbiased?
    • Are all positions presented fairly and equally?
    • Do these sources represent a balanced view of the topic?
    • Are the sources recent enough for your topic?

    Use tools to judge the article's quality:

    • Does this article have a bronze star (a featured article)?
    • Is there a notice at the top about the article's quality?
    • Read what the editor-contributors say about the article on the "Talk" page.

    For other suggestions on how to evaluate Wikipedia, see the Knowledge Base article "How do I evaluate Wikipedia?"

  • How do I cite a reference book?

    For a print reference book, use the title page first, and then the copyright page (not the cover or jacket), to find:

    • Editor(s) / Author(s)
    • Title, subtitle
    • Edition
    • Volume number and title (if given)
    • Publisher
    • First place of publication
    • Latest copyright date

  • How do I cite an article in a reference e-book?

    A reference e-book is a static copy of a print book. Gather the facts of publication from:

    • The title and copyright page, if you can see them
    • The article you are using
    • The database's citation

  • How do I cite a reference database?

    A reference database is continually being revised and updated. Gather citation elements from:

    • The entry you are using
    • The citation given by the database