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Home >> Research & Instruction >> Research Services Blog >> Electronic Reference Sources
electronic reference sources

Need help with background information on your topic?

Our Reference Collection contains online databases with valuable background information that provide answers to your tricky research questions. Like other online databases, reference databases contain articles and information about your topics, and they can be accessed anywhere you have access to the Internet. Many of these databases contain specialized encyclopedias that can help you refine your topic before jumping into a more specialized subject area database. There are also online almanacs, biographies, directories, and statistical sources that can help you with your research projects. What is highlighted below represents a few of the reference sources that SDSU offers you in an online format.

Getting Started: The two databases highlighted below are great for background research on your papers or projects.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) is a collection of online reference books published by Gale. Many of the books in this database are specialized encyclopedias in specific subject areas. Search this collection of specialized subject encyclopedias by title, keyword, or, use the navigation bar on the left hand side of the screen to search by topic for e-reference books on your subject.

The collection includes almanacs, biographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and statistical sources.  Here are a just a few examples of the titles available through GVRL:

Credo Reference is an online database that is comprised of electronic reference materials including the following types of sources:

Need something more specific?

Check out the following types of reference sources and electronic resources the library owns.

Almanac: A handbook typically published annually containing information of general interest.

Country Reviews are full-text reports on 191 countries around the globe. Country Wire provides global real-time news of these countries from major international wire services. CountryWatch Forecasts provides 5-year macroeconomic forecasts for each of 192 countries in both tables and graphs. Historical data is also available for key macroeconomic measures. Data is downloadable in spreadsheet format.

The CIA publishes this book with up-to-date information on each nation. Each entry provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.

Biographies: An account of someone’s life written by someone else.

Searchable by name, occupation, sex, birth date, death date, birthplace, and keyword. Does not list any living people.

Complete biographical and bibliographical information and references on U.S. and international authors.

Biographical information on artists, definitions of art terms and artistic movements, and digital images from four major art reference sources (Grove Art Online, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms.) 

Offers concise, up-to-date biographies on worldwide historical and cultural figures, from the Romans to the 21st century written by specialist authors. Now includes biographies of 59,102 men and women who died in or before the year 2010.

Biographies and autobiographies of children's authors and illustrators.

Directories: A book listing individuals or organizations alphabetically or thematically with details such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers.

Cabell's directories online for Business, Education, Psychology and Computer Science. The Directory helps you to determine which journals typically publish manuscripts similar to yours or could be the best fit for your manuscript. The index in each Directory helps you match the characteristics of your manuscript to the topic areas the journal emphasizes and acceptance rate.

Features bibliographical, biographical and contact information for living authors worldwide who have at least one English publication. Entries include name, pseudonyms, addresses, citizenship, birth date, specialization, career information and a bibliography.


Results from over 14,000 surveys and polls conducted by over 700 organizations in the US and over 80 other countries.

Extensive database on California and its counties and cities; reports on the California economy; and bulletins on state and federal policy developments.

New interface for census data, with QuickFacts of statistics for all states and counties, and for cities and towns with a population of 5,000 or more. Also has a wide variety of Data Tools and Apps.

The above sources highlight just some of the online reference sources that SDSU offers. They provide reliable information for your research projects and offer great starting points for you when thinking about where to start on your research. Don’t see a reference source on this list that could help you? Ask the librarian in your subject area for more recommendations.

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