Typically, a Reference Book is one that cannot be removed from the library, but since we are working online, and this page is all about open and free sources of information, you can get these whenever you would like:


  • Dictionary of Etymology - Etymology is the study of words and their origins. Useful for research projects and for you hardcore users of the English Language who want to be as precise as possible.
  • Merriam -Webster Dictionary
  • Dictionary.com - pulls information from various dictionaries.
  • Wiktionary - Use this one when you want to copy a definition for your work. The entries are Creative Commons licensed so as long as you say where it came from you can use them in your work.
  • Rhyming Dictionary - useful for writing poetry and annoying your friends.

Online Thesaurus - for finding words that (a lot of times) mean the same thing as other words.

References (See the Electronic Databases Section for even more references.)



(usually an annual publication of interesting facts, but online resources tend to be updated a little more frequently):


  • Encyclopedia.com
  • Encyclopedia Britannica - Go to the Electronic Database and access this through the Electronic Library of MN (you won't need an account)
  • Wikipedia - This often gets a bad rap because anyone can edit it, but there are certain safeguards in effect. One study has also shown that experts find it more more reliable than non-experts. Britannica claims the two are equal in reliability. At any rate, use it as a guide. You can always track the resources back in the works cited at the bottom of each wiki page.