As you are starting to explore a new research topic, reference sources are a good way to gain background information on your topic. High quality, academic, multivolume sets, will often give you the beginnings of scholarly research on a subject by providing a short bibliography of important works on the subject.
Even with advanced subject knowledge of an area, you will run across unfamiliar people, places and events. Library reference sources will allow you to quickly fill in those gaps and improve your contextual knowledge with more reliability than a Wikipedia article.
Van Wylen Library provides acces to several excellent reference databases. For quick, fundamental information on almost any topic, resources like those listed below are frequently the best place to begin researching a topic that is new to you. Best of all, these databases combine the speed and ease of a public reosurce like Wikipedia without sacrificing reliability or scholarly character.
There are a variety of specialized reference books that can give you an overview of your topic and help you get a sense of where to look next in your research. They can also be a reference point for brief definitions and background questions as you do your research
Van Wylen's reference section is on the main library floor. It's organized just like the rest of our collection, so reference books dealing with the same or similar subjects are often found in the same vicinity. A fun way to find reference tools to use in your projects is just to come in and browse the shelves!
You can, however, also use HopeCAT's advanced search feature to locate reference books on a particular topic. In the "Location" and "Material Type" menus, you can select "Van Wylen Reference" and "Print Book," respectively. This will add these limiters to whatever search terms you are using in the fields on top.
These are just a few examples of the many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias that we have at Van Wylen, not to mention the more extensive collection at Western Theological Seminary. Just browse in the front section of the reference collection to find many more helpful titles.