What are information sources?
What about reference sources?
• Any publication from which authoritative
information can be obtained, including but not
limited to reference books, catalog records, printed
indexes and abstracting services, and bibliographic
databases. Individuals and services outside the
library that can be relied upon to provide
authoritative information are considered
resources for referral.
And reference books?
• A book designed to be consulted when authoritative information is
needed, rather than read cover to cover. Reference books often consist
of a series of signed or unsigned “entries” listed alphabetically under
headwords or headings, or in some other arrangement
(classified, numeric, etc.). The category includes
almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, biographical
sources, catalogs, concordances, dictionaries, directories, discographies
filmographies, encyclopedias, glossaries, handbooks, indexes, manuals, r
esearch guides, union lists, yearbooks, etc., whether published
commercially or as government documents. Long reference works may
be issued in multivolume sets, with any indexes in the last volume.
Reference works that require continuous updating may be published
to look at it
What are reference books?
• They are those we „refer‟ to. Referring is a very similar
to the strategy of scanning. We use a reference book
just to look up the odd fact or confirm a supposition.
Look at the design of reference books - e.g. the
Reference Book of Water and Weather and the
Encyclopaedia of British Wild Animals. They are laid
out so that the reader can very quickly access
information. You do not read an encyclopaedia from
cover to cover - you think what you want to know and
then search for one very small area of text.
• Teaching Non-fiction?: Reading Reference Books
By Bobbie Neate
July 2, 2013
Know your reference books
When you pick up a reference book:
• Note the author and publisher, and perhaps the author's
• Check the copyright date. Given the type of information the
tool covers, is it likely to be current enough?
• What is the purpose and scope of the book (check for
• Review the table of contents. What is the scope of the
material? Is it biased toward one viewpoint?
• Review the index (if there is none, is that a significant
drawback?). What approaches does the index use?
July 2, 2013
More know your books
• Page through to see what special features may be there. Are
there photos? Charts and graphs? Appendices?
• What is the level of the book? Who is the intended
• Make up a short “test” for the book. Think up some
questions that you feel, based on the review you've
done, that the book should be able to answer. Does it?
• Has anyone else on the staff had experience with this book?
How do they feel about it?
There are two methods of alphabetizing. The letter-
by-letter system ignores punctuation and spaces
between words. The word-by-word system organizes
by the first word, then the second word, and so on.
Here is an example:
• Letter-by-letter Word-by-word
Bookcase Book club
Book club Book fair
Book fair Bookend
• Glossary Of Library and Research Terms
Introduction to Library Research
Evaluating print sources
• Is the information recent? Select up-to-
date, current information unless you are
conducting historical research. This is particularly
true in the sciences.
• Did an expert in the field prepare the information?
Look for the author's credentials and affiliations.
For citations to biographical material about an
author, consult a biographical source, such as
Biography and Genealogy Master
Index, Contemporary Authors or Biography
More evaluation guidelines
• Is the information from a reliable source? Choose
information from a scholarly journal (Finding Scholarly
Journals) or from a book published by a reputable
publisher. Choose books that have received favorable
reviews. Consult one of these indexes for citations to
reviews: Book Review Index, Book Review Digest, Index to
Book Reviews in the Humanities, Children’s Book Review
Index, and Balay’s Guide to Reference Books.
• Does the writer seem to be represent material fairly and
accurately? All argument shows bias because it attempts to
persuade or influence its audience. However, guard against
using information that seems unreasonably or unfairly
• Who is the intended audience? Is the information for a
specialized or general audience?
• Adapted from Evaluating Print and Electronic Sources
Critical Evaluation of Resources
How do you make sense of what is out there
and evaluate its authority and appropriateness
for your research?
• Other indicators
• What is the breadth of the article, book, website or
• Who is the intended audience for this source?
• When was the source published?
Scholarly vs. Popular
Who is the author?
What are his or her credentials?
• Sometimes information about the author is listed
somewhere in the article. Other times, you may
need to consult another resource to get background
information on the author. Sometimes it helps to
search the author‟s name in a general web search
engine like Google.
• A bibliography, along with footnotes, indicate that the
author has consulted other sources and serves to
authenticate the information that he or she is
• What point of view does the author represent?
Primary vs. secondary research
• In determining the appropriateness of a resource, it
may be helpful to determine whether it is primary
research or secondary research.
Distinguish Between Primary and
• Indexes, Abstracts, Bibl
(used to locate primary
& secondary sources)
• Journal Articles
What about Tertiary Sources?
You‟ll find some
these examples. As
you see, some would
See this guide from the
Illinois, for example.
Which is best: print or online?
July 2, 2013 Information Resources
The full article is available on Canvas
2005, Issue 91/92, p39-