The search box on the library homepage is the place to begin looking for print and electronic reference books. While reference materials will sometimes appear in a general search for your topic, a good strategy to focus a search for reference books is to click on the Books and E-books tab and then search on your topic along with the word "encyclopedia." For example, your search might be "ecology and encyclopedia." This should return a list of both print and e-book encyclopedias for that topic. You can also expand this strategy by pairing your topic with other common names of reference books such as: almanac, dictionary, directory, handbook, or timeline. Reference e-books can be easily accessed by clicking on the link and logging in using your regular DSC login credentials. Print reference books are located in the library and will usually have REF before the call number.
Most reference books cannot be checked out and usually you are only going to be interested in a few pages which can be copied or scanned with your phone. If the call number begins with REF, the book must be used in the library. If there is no REF in front of the call number, the book can be checked out even if it has "encyclopedia" in the title. However, these books are often older editions of reference books and may not have the most up-to-date information. Current reference books (those with REF before the call number) are usually shelved together in a separate section of the library. One advantage of using the print books is the ability to easily browse to see if there are any reference books on your topic.
As you walk in the door to the library and look to your left, the Reference Shelves are the first 3 low shelves located between the Research Assistance Desk and the Group Study Rooms.
As you walk in the door to the library and look to your right, the reference books are located on the first few shelves.
When you pick up a reference book, the first place you should look is in the back of the book for an index. In a multi-volume set, the index is often in the last volume. While most entries in reference books are arranged alphabetically, sometimes the entry may not be where you expect it to be. For example, if you are looking for an entry on "marshes," it may be in an article on "wetlands." The index will cross reference similar and related terms and tell you exactly which page to look on to find your information. If you don't find an index, look for a table of contents. Many e-books can be searched electronically by keyword, but finding the index can still be helpful.
Librarians work with reference materials all the time and may be able to immediately point you to the best source for your research. Often the best research strategy is to ask a librarian for help!