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SUNY Erie Library Resource Center

U.S. History

Reference Sources

References sources are a great  starting point for research.  They provide quick, basic information.  Typical reference sources are encyclopedias, dictionaries, and atlases.

Encyclopedias can be general and specific:

General encyclopedias are multi-volume and have a broad content range.  Articles can range from  aardvark to zoology and anything in between.  Example:  Encyclopædia Britannica 

Topic-specific encyclopedias have a narrow focus.  Entries can include longer articles, profiles of lesser-known, yet significant individuals and subtopics.  Examples include the Encyclopedia of the New American Nation, Encyclopedia of Civil War MedicineEncyclopedia of World War II: A Political, Social, and Military History, Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia.


Dictionaries also can be topic specific.  Entries can be relatively short (one or two paragraphs).  Examples: Historical Dictionary of the 1940s.  However, multi-volume dictionaries have entries that can be pages long (Dictionary of American Negro BiographyHistorical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement, Dictionary of American History).

 Formats are hardcopy and electronic.

Hard-copy reference sources often are located in the Library's Reference collection.  Reference-type sources are available on the regular book shelves, and available for circulation.  Check the catalog for the status of a particular item. 

Electronic reference sources are available 24/7.  Credo Reference and Gale Virtual Reference Library contain a multi-discipline collection of specialized volumes.  Something for any topic.  Other specialized encyclopedias (examples listed above) are also recommended.  These sources are accessible via the Databases by Title link (on the Library's home page).  For your convenience, links are also located in the Online Resources box on this page.  Access requires SUNY Erie username and password.


Access requires SUNY Erie login. 

N.B.:  these sources often provide citation assistance at the bottom of an article.  Students are cautioned to critically review these citations to ensure compliance with the citation style required for the course.