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Finding Resources

Find information & research materials in the library.

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

For Your Reference

Reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias provide background information. These resources are useful when you:

  • Want to quickly learn about a topic.
  • Are having trouble selecting a topic for an assignment.
  • Don’t know what search terms to use.
  • Need to find facts and figures.

Virtual Reference

Oxford English Dictionary Online
  • Oxford
  • Full-text resource

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language.

Use this widget to search seven collections of reference books.

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Digital Reference Texts

Full-text resources in Gale eBooks include:


Available in the reference section of the J. W. Martin Library, these books will help you employ language precisely.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia can deliver general information and will sometimes cite high-quality sources.

However, because it is crowdsourced, Wikipedia is not itself reliable. Do not cite it in a paper. Consider the following:

Table 1
Comparing Scholarly Reference Works to Wikipedia
Reference WorksWikipedia
Usually requiring a subscription or library access.Free on the open web.
Written by experts in the fields they cover.

Anyone can edit Wikipedia.

Sometimes general but often covering one subject in depth.General or multidisciplinary with extreme variation in depth and accuracy.
Professionally vetted for accuracy, currency, and authority by an editorial board.Has editing policies and guidelines authors should follow.

An oft-cited article in the journal Nature (Giles, ) claims that Wikipedia is as accurate as Encyclopædia Britannica.

But while this claim has been widely touted in popular media, there is more to the story: As Kolbe () explains, the Nature piece, which is not a peer-reviewed study, only compares articles on obscure scientific subjects. On Wikipedia, such technical articles are more likely to be written and edited only by specialists. By contrast, all articles in Encyclopædia Britannica are written by specialists.

Furthermore, Nature’s interpretation of its own study is debatable: As Orlowski () notes, the Nature study actually indicates that Wikipedia has 31% more errors than Britannica. Carr () examined the Nature study more closely and found that it ignored the most egregious errors in Wikipedia. The Encyclopædia Britannica itself () has even weighed in on this debate, calling the Nature article fatally flawed.

As a rule of thumb, the more contentious a subject is, especially if it is related to current events, the more likely a Wikipedia article is to be biased, erroneous, or deliberately omissive. Information from Wikipedia should be used cautiously if at all.

See these sources:

Reference Databases

These research databases contain full-text reference works.

Their content includes encyclopedias and specialized dictionaries but may also include journal articles and other sources.

General Reference

Legal & Business Information

English & Literature

Health & Psychology

Home & Craft

Schools & Public Libraries