Reference books, like encyclopedias and handbooks, provide background information about a topic.
Reference books can help you:
"The purpose of an encyclopedia is to summarize and codify knowledge in a given field. This is in contrast to a handbook, which offers essays on cutting-edge research in a field, or a dictionary, which provides short, to-the-point definitions of key concepts in a field."
Source: Sica, A. (2001). Encyclopedias, Handbooks, and Dictionaries. In N.J. Smelser & P.B. Baltes (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B0-08-043076-7/00039-5. As cited in American Library Association. (2011). ALA Guide to Sociology & Psychology Reference. Chicago: Author.
Search across multiple subject specific encyclopedias and handbooks: