Reference sources, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, are great for gathering general information a topic. If you need definitions of words or concepts, statistical information, or background information, reference sources are a good place to start.
While most dictionaries and encyclopedias are credible sources of information, they only summarize topics, and should not be used as a substitute for scholarly research. Some professors will not allow you to cite encyclopedias in research papers, so be sure that you understand the expectations of an assignment beforehand. Finally, be sure to choose reference sources wisely! Encyclopedias and dictionaries should be published by a credible source, such as a major university. (Wikipedia is NOT considered a credible reference source, so use it only for background information.) For more information about reference sources, follow the links below.