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Engineering -- ENGR110/112 library research guide

How to use library services and resources for new engineering students.

What are Reference Sources?

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.

Type of Reference Sources

Not sure where to start? Use this chart to find out.


If you want...


A starting point for your research

Multipurpose reference sources

Background information on a topic


The meaning of a word or an idea


Practical information on a topic or a  comprehensive overview

Handbooks, manuals, guides, etc.

Information about a person or group of people

Biographical sources

Information about a place

Maps, atlases, and gazetteers

Data, numbers, or facts on a topic

Statistics, almanacs, and yearbooks

Suggestions for further reading or other types of information

Bibliographies and other reference sources

Adapted from Janis McKenzie's guide, Simon Fraser University

How Do I Find Reference Sources?

Search the UVic libraries catalogue (Books & Media tab). Do a keyword search with one of the following:

pocket book

e.g. "engineering dictionary"


For more instructions, check out UVIC Libraries FAQ for dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Engineering Handbooks, Texts, etc.

Subject specific resources provide more in-depth coverage of a particular topic or academic disciplines.

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This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.