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Quick Reference

This guide orients you to useful sources for locating general information on a variety of topics.


This guide compiles many kinds of "reference sources". We can think of reference sources as published materials that provide well-established information, arranged systematically. In research, they are often used to find general or background information, and to quickly establish key facts about a topic.

Reference sources may or may not have a disciplinary focus. We recommend also consulting subject-specific research guides for specialized resources in your field of study.

Each section of this guide provides information about the types of resources featured, explanations about when and why you might consult them, and examples from our physical and electronic collections. We invite you to explore our physical reference collection, located on the west side of the 9th floor in Bobst Library.

A black and white photograph of an old fashioned reference room decorated with sculptures in various styles, with a reference librarian seated at a desk on the right and patrons seated at tables
An image, date unknown, of the New York Public Library 135th Street branch reference room, from the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

A collage of many names, images, and logos of different reference sources and databases, including the Oxford English Dictionary, Credo Reference Online, Cambridge Histories Online, and World Who's Who Europa Biographical Reference