Reference Books – Wikipedia’s Offline Version

Reference Books
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In a time before Wikipedia and the internet, pupils, students and other people had to rely on a completely different medium to get general information. If you wanted to expand your knowledge or if you had to make a presentation for school, there was only one thing you could do: browsing your home, school’s or public library for different reference books.


But even nowadays these books are still relevant! Wikipedia is not the most reliable source on the internet and some kind of information is really hard to obtain from trustworthy sites. Thus, you should always take a walk to the library to get reference material, articles, paper and books on a specific topic.

Sure, with the rise of online articles and scanned books available on different websites, this is slowly becoming obsolete. But the time to ignore the printed word has not yet come!


Different Reference Books

There are different kinds of reference books, all containing different kinds of information. Which one is the most useful for you depends on the topic you are researching.


Following, we listed different kinds of reference books and what you can find in them.



Almanacs are released annually and contain different information about the years before its publishing date. This information includes dates, facts and statistics. Oftentimes, they are formatted using tables to facilitate reading and browsing through the information, making it easier to compare the different information throughout the years.

There are different kinds of almanacs. Some cover general topics while others focus on a specific topic. Contrary to the yearbook, an almanac contains information spanning over several years.



An atlas contains a collection of different maps. The most well known atlases contain geographic maps of places, cities and roads in different states, countries or across the whole world. But there are also atlases featuring maps that contain economic, political or other, thematic maps.



Biographies, outside the written-down life story of someone, are also made for the works of authors as well as different topics. They list written work of a specific person or about a specific topic. They can usually be found at the end of scientific work to list the published work cited or used to create the paper, essay or book. Long biographies, however, are often released in book form.

Alongside with title and author, other information about the items in the list are given as well, like publisher, date, language, form and more.



Catalogs are bound to a certain institution or library. They list all bibliographic items available in a library or group of libraries (e.g. for different universities).



Usually, dictionaries contain an alphabetical list of terms and their explanation. There are general dictionaries as well as ones that focus on a specific topic.

Dictionaries are very similar to encyclopedias. Instead of giving a long description of a term, however, dictionaries only give a short, explanatory description.



Directories contain lists of contact information of various people, organizations, companies, institutions and the like. They contain addresses, names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and more.

The most well known directories are the Yellow Pages as well telephone books.



Encyclopedias contain information about a wide variety of topics. Like a dictionary, they contain mostly alphabetical lists and long, sometimes exhaustive descriptions of the terms and topics covered. If not ordered alphabetical, encyclopedias are usually structured according to the covered topic.

They also often contain illustrations and references to further work about a term or subject.



A gazetteer is usually found together with an atlas or another collection of maps. They contain information in addition to maps like dimensions, population and other valid information for a certain area.


Guide Book

Guide books are mostly known as travel guides. They contain all kinds of interesting and important information about a place, especially those of high values for travelers rather than locals. This information includes hotels, restaurants, shopping opportunities, seasonal festivities, street maps and more. Guide books on foreign countries also oftentimes include a list of important expressions in another language.

These books are issued for different places (e.g. countries, islands, cities), or following a certain topic (e.g. adventure vacations, relaxing & spa, etc).



Handbooks are, mostly, single-volume books that contain factual and guiding information about one specific topic. It’s systematically organized to make reading and following the handbook easier.



Indexes are mostly found in scientific fields as a list of literature and reference material in a specific field or on a specific topic.



Contrary to a dictionary, a thesaurus does not give a description of the word it features. Instead, it lists synonyms (words of similar meaning) and sometimes antonyms (words of opposite meaning) for a given list or words.

Why You Should Use Thesaurus



As the name suggests, yearbooks are published annually. They contain facts, dates, numbers, statistics, photographs and other information about the year they were issued for. They can be general, listing the most interesting and defining occurrences in a year (nationally or world-wide), as well as topic-specific.

Yearbooks are similar to almanacs, however they only contain information about the preceding year. For comparison, several yearbooks from consecutive or comparable years are necessary.