‘Reference’ material

As a child, I remember using the World Book encyclopaedias as a starting point for many school projects. Encyclopaedias, atlases, specialist dictionaries (such as the dictionary of musical terms) and other reference books helped to give you some sort of basic understanding and a starting point to launch your information gathering. Whilst I acknowledge the lack of use of the paper versions of reference texts, the same need for a basic set of information still exists, as the popularity of wikipedia confirms. Merriam-Webster’s definition of a reference book as one which is ‘intended primarily for consultation rather than consecutive reading’ still seems valid and could be extended to include electronic references. The references in these books tended to be reliable, credible, succinct and many had pictures or diagrams to aid in reader understanding. The references often included other terms to broaden your search and knowledge. Online reference texts, subject to evaluation for credibility, continue to perform the same functions and these ensure that a wide range of reference material is available to the general public. The term ‘reference material’ still seems relevant and valid today.

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