Encyclopedia, dictionaries, atlases and almanacs are three common types of reference books. Other reference materials include biographical works, thesauruses, bibliographies, manuals, indexes and yearbooks. “Reference book” is a broad term to describe many types of printed resources that contain a catalog of factual information for historical preservation and research purposes.
Books that are primarily reference sources typically have an itemized format to make it easy for students to look up specific information. Catalogs of historical data, such as Encyclopaedia Britannica and World Book Encyclopedia, provide alphabetical lists of topics about past events and historic figures. Dictionaries and thesauruses provide word definitions, synonyms and antonyms, but they often include detailed subcategories about word origins, slang terms, dialectical variations and grammatical parts of speech. Other index-style references include directories, gazetteers and government censuses.
Many reference books cover one topic or industry, such as biographies, occupational handbooks and travel guidebooks. In higher education, students often need up-to-date reference sources that follow expert research in a specific field. White papers, statistical reports and abstracts are examples of reference materials that are published frequently to reflect changing information and professional findings. Traditional reference books are often grouped together in the reference section of the library, but many printed resources are also available in electronic formats for faster browsing and reliable data storage.