Reference Material | How to Choose the Right Resource

Students are aware of the many available resources for studying or research, but sometimes are unable to choose appropriately. With so much information available on the internet these days, it becomes important that students are able to identify the appropriate reference material and make use of them. Also, the internet is not the only place where a wide range of information is available. Students need to understand that there is a wide range of information available in print, too.

Reference Material, The Right Resources

reference material

Finding digitized documents, online photographs, indexes, audio clips, informational articles and top quality information is easier than ever. Information has truly become democratized. This positive development will only strengthen and gain further momentum as more and more global citizens get online and the broadband and DSL market increases. Thus, the internet has more users than ever and the overall, speed of connection to the internet is improving as well. The bottom line is that this means more people will be able to look at more web pages faster.

In terms of research, this also means that more content and information is competing for the attention of the web users. Thus, online researchers should search for trusted websites that seek to provide high quality information. Professional online researchers are finding that web domains with the domain extension .edu and .gov are particularly trustworthy sources of information. This is due to the fact that these domains are official school and government websites, which tend to have stricter editorial control.

Let us see how to simplify the process of choosing the best reference material:

  1. Have a particular idea in mind before starting your hunt for the reference material— When you have a subject/topic in hand, try to make a mental map of a list of things—points which you could use as a reference. This will give you an idea as to how detailed would you like the paper to be.
  2. Do an online search— Search online, either in your library’s computer or an online resource for information/reference books which match your criteria. This will make your search a little easier.
  3. Library— If you are looking for a reference material in a library, stroll through the shelves to get a general idea of the kinds of reference materials and also the sections in which you can find them. This will help you in narrowing your search to a particular section.
  4. Start from the last— Every book has a short gist of what the book contains. Also, the index gives you a fair idea of what will find.
  5.  A few questions— Since you are looking for a reference material, based on your topic, come up with a few questions and test if the book has all the relevant answers to your questions. This will help you in choosing the right book for your reference.
  6.  Read and check— After you have chosen a book as your reference material, do a quick read to find out if what you want is what is available. If you find that the material at hand is insufficient, start your search again.

If you are looking for print reference material, then the library is the best choice. Here, you can ask the librarian for some suggestions about the material. If you are looking for information online, then you can choose from a list of many sites. Glancing through them will give you a fair idea if the material is important or not.

There are five main categories of referencing material that you should be familiar with. Although these five will in no way be even close to the only reference material you’ll need, they will be a good starting point for any project as they will help you define what’s needed and point you in the right direction to find more information on the subject.


This is usually a great place to start when faced with an assignment. Firstly to ensure that you understand what is being asked in the question, and then to find out any words you aren’t familiar with. Lack of understanding of a word could mean the difference between a pass and fail so make good use of a dictionary before starting your assignment. There are even dictionaries that specialize in certain subjects such as music, medicine, technical terms, etc. These can be invaluable if you are studying at a higher level and your course contains terms not commonly found in a normal dictionary.


When you are writing up your assignment, a thesaurus can be an invaluable resource. This contains synonyms for words. By using a more extensive vocabulary you will improve your chances of getting a better grade, but make sure that you remember the words you use and know what they mean in case you are later quizzed by your teacher. If you can’t find a synonym for a word, check in a dictionary that you are spelling the word correctly!


This resource gives you brief articles about almost anything. You need to find the most up-to-date one you can as they quickly go out of date as current events and technology changes. If you know what you’re looking for you may find that a more specialized encyclopedia gives you a great information source, but if you’re not too sure where to start with your project, a general encyclopedia will help point you in the right direction to other more in-depth resources.


Produced on an annual basis, an almanac will give you facts on many different subject areas. Whether you’re looking for information on a particular event, country or even person, you should find a good starting point in an almanac. As with an encyclopedia however you need to ensure you have the most up-to-date version available.


A reference source in map form— if you need to know where a country is, what its terrain is like, what its boundaries are, the kind of government it has and even things such as its usual weather conditions— you’ll find this information in an atlas. As with the other reference sources mentioned, atlases can be specialized to deal with things such as history and you need to look at the most current atlas available to you.

Most of these resources are available in different formats, so you aren’t restricted to books. Computer versions and the Internet provide digital formats for those who prefer to use technology in their research.

The good news is that these items are not that hard to find because the market is providing you with many choices; you can choose to purchase one on nearest bookstores or better yet you can order online for your convenience. If you want to order online, there are many stores that provide you with the best and the most comprehensive references. Aside from that, these items are not that expensive, so having one is possible. At the end of the day, what is important is that you took a significant step in making your referencing future clear.

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