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The Use of Reference Material in Education

Jan 9, 2008
Throughout your education you will find an increasing need to consult reference material to help you further your studies. There are five main reference sources that you should be familiar with. Although these 5 will in no way be even close to the only reference material you'll need, they will be a good starting point for any project as they will help you define what's needed and point you in the kind of direction to find more information on the subject.

Dictionary
This is usually a great place to start when faced with an assignment. First of all to ensure that you understand what is being asked in the question, and then to find out what any words you aren't familiar with mean. Lack of understanding of a word could mean the difference between a pass and fail so make good use of a dictionary before starting your assignment. There are even dictionaries that are specialized in certain subjects such as music, medicine, technical terms, etc. These can be invaluable if you are studying at a higher level and your course contains terms not commonly found in a normal dictionary.

Thesaurus
When you are writing up your assignment a thesaurus can be an invaluable resource. This contains synonyms for words; that is words that mean the same as a word you know. By using a more extensive vocabulary you will improve your chances of getting a better grade, but make sure that you remember the words you use and know what they mean in case you are later quizzed by your teacher. If you can't find a synonym for a word, check in a dictionary that you are spelling the word correctly!

Encyclopedia
This resource gives you brief articles about almost anything you can think of if it's a comprehensive version. You need to find the most up-to-date one you can as they quickly go out of date as current event and technology changes. If you know what you're looking for you may find that a more specialized encyclopedia gives you a great information source, but if you're not too sure where to start with your project, a general encyclopedia will help point you in the right direction to other more in-depth resources.

Almanac
Produced on an annual basis, an almanac will give you facts on many different subject areas. Whether you're looking for information on a particular event, country or even person you should find a good starting point in an almanac. As with an encyclopedia however you need to ensure you have the most up-to-date version available.

Atlas
A reference source in map form, if you need to know where a country is, what its terrain is like, what its boundaries are, the kind of government it has and even things such as its usual weather conditions, you'll find this information in an atlas. As with the other reference sources mentioned, atlases can be specialized to deal with things such as history and you need to look at the most current atlas available to you.

Most of these resources are available in different formats so you aren't restricted to books. Computer versions and the Internet provide digital formats for those who prefer to use technology in their research.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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