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History: U.S.: Reference

Reference sources - what are they?

Materials which are referred to for brief or general information. Examples include:

  • Background or overview synopses (encyclopedia)
  • Definitions (dictionary)
  • Synonyms (thesaurus)
  • Statistics
  • Biographical Details
  • Maps (atlas)

Reference sources - how to search them

Reference resources are organized in an order that aids searching (alphabetically, chronologically, etc).  Most include an index which points users to the appropriate section.  Tips for searching:

  1. Decide on your search terms
  2. Try searching with them
  3. If not satisfied with the results, try searching a synonym or related idea

Things to watch out for:

  • Is the computer searching only the title/header of the entries or the full-text of the information?  You will get more results, but more of them will be irrelabent if you are searching the full-text.
  • Are you searching for a proper noun (name, place,...)?  Make sure that the spelling is correct and try variations if it originated in a foreign language.
  • Searching for something by date?  This is trickier than it sounds.  If possible, search for an event name or topic rather than a date, e.g. civil rights movement or hippies or flower children rather than 1960s.


Encyclopedias & Handbooks (Online)

Search a group of online encyclopedias on this topic.

Or, search individual titles below:

Major Print Encyclopedias

Dictionary of American History 8 vols.
Call Number: Ref E 174.D52 2003

Oxford Companion to United States History
Call Number: Ref E 174.O94 2001

The Reader's Companion to American History
Call Number: Ref E 174.R43 1991

Historical Atlas of the United States
Call Number: Ref G 1201.S1C28 2003

Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups
Call Number: Ref E 184.A1H35

Harvard Guide to African-American History
Call Number: Ref E 185.H326 2001

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, 6 vols.
Call Number: Ref E 184.A1E58 1994

Encyclopedia of American Social History
Call Number: Ref HN 57.E58 1993

Encyclopedia of American Economic History
Call Number: Ref HC 103.E52

Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy
Call Number: Ref JX 1407.E53

Encyclopedia of American Political History
Call Number: Ref E 183.E48 2001

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean
Call Number: Ref F 1406.C36 1985

Historical Statistics


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