What is a Reference Book? - Manknow

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What is a Reference Book?

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What is a Reference Book?


  According to the Oxford Advanced Learners English Dictionary, a reference book is a
book which contains facts and information that a user can refer to when in search of an information of particular interest.
   It should be taken into consideration that a reference book is designed or published for reference purposes or consultation objectives and not to be read or peruse from the beginning to the end or from cover to cover.
   Reference books are called REFERENCE for a reason. They are books that users can always refer to when in need of a quick response or answers to specific queries.

Characteristics of a Reference Book

 It is quite easy for a user to recognize a reference book when he or she sees one. Reference books tend to posses certain features or characteristics which makes them different from other books.
 The first and most notable characteristics of this reference books is that it is published or designed for published for consultation purpose, this therefore means that specific information is intended to be found as quickly as possible when needed.
 Secondly, the writing style of these reference books is meant to be informative; the author avoids the use of the first person and emphasizes facts.
 Thirdly, so many reference books are compiled by team of contributors whose work is coordinated by one or more editors rather than an individual author. Reference books are not usually the work of an individual author because reference books offer vast amount of information that may seem impossible for just one person to compile. For instance, if one author should produce an encyclopedia, it would take him more than a decade to publish the work.
 Fourthly, updated editions are usually published as needed, in some cases annually example is the Advanced Oxford Learners Dictionary which has one than one editions.

Types of reference book illustrating one example each


Alas is a type of reference book, it is loaded with or it is a bound volume of geographical information such as physical, political, road and/or thematic maps. We have different types of alas base on focus, they include the historical alas and the subject alas. An example of alas is the Alas of the World


 The dictionary is a reference book which defines selected words or terms, confirms spelling, definitions and pronunciations, explains how words are used and help locate antonym and synonyms.
  Dictionaries are of different types depending on its purpose which includes Bilingual Dictionary, Etymological dictionary, Subject dictionary etc.
 An example of dictionary is the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary.


 This type of reference book provides summaries of information and ideas in a comprehensive manner. They are relevant reference books in the provision of facts and obtaining broad survey of a topic.
 Just like the dictionary, encyclopedia can be categorized base on its purpose or focus. We have the General encyclopedia and the subject based encyclopedia.
 A typical example of the encyclopedia is the Encyclopedia of Social Science.


This is a reference book can be seen as a book of synonyms, often including related and contrasting words and antonyms. 
 An example of this type of reference book is the Roget’s international thesaurus.


This is a reference work that contains a list of names of persons and/or organizations usually arranged in alphabetical or classified order and providing information such as addresses, phone numbers, functions, and other relevant information about the location and identity of the person or organization.
Example is a Telephone directories.

Year Book Annual

 This is a reference book that is usually published annually and contains information about events that occurred in the year of coverage, it is a historical material.
An example of this reference book is the United Nations Year Book.


Isaac M. Ogbonna (2009). Appreciating the library, 3rd edition, His Glory Publishers.

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