Skip to Main Content

Civil Engineering

Introduction to Reference Materials

Reference works are a great place to start your research as they provide quick, authoritative introductions to a topic. Common reference works include dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, atlases, almanacs, and style manuals, and contain useful information such as descriptions, definitions, statistics, lists, quotes, properties, and standards.

Information from reference works is commonly used in the following two ways: 

  1. Context: If you want to know more about a topic that you are researching, or even a topic that is completely new to you, you can use a reference book. For example, if you use Wikipedia to look up general information about a topic or event, you are using Wikipedia as a reference tool. However, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, so it is not necessarily the most authoritative or trustworthy source of information. The reference sources from the library have already been vetted for authority and quality so you know that the information contained within them is high-quality.

  2. Supporting Arguments: Reference materials can be used to support facts or other arguments that you make in a paper or assignment. Again, this information may be available on the web, but you would have to do some additional work to ensure that the source is reliable, whereas the reference materials in the library have already been vetted. 

Many of the library's reference materials are available online, so you can access them from anywhere and easily search for the information you need. We also have print materials in the Reference Section on the 5th Level of Douglas Library. If you have any questions about using reference materials, or would like a librarian to help you find the best sources, choose the "book a consultation" link on the left. 

Start Searching


Use Omni to search the library's catalogue for books, articles, videos, maps, government documents, music, data sets, open access materials, and more. You can discover materials that are not available at Queen's but that you can freely request either within Omni or through interlibrary loan. 

RSMeans Online

Cover of Building Construction Costs with RSMeans data 2020