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A Guide for Writers: Resources for Research

Updated on September 10, 2015

Writers Need to Read


Improve Your Writing with Better Research

Better research leads to better writing. Take the time to browse through the reference section of your local public library or campus library. The variety of reference books is great, and your writing can be enriched with quotations and specialized information instead of generalities. A librarian would be happy to introduce you to some reference books especially suited to your current writing project.

Writers, teachers, and students should be familiar with the basic reference books: dictionary, almanac, and encyclopedia. Now meet some more specialized reference books generally available at your local public library. Some of them may become your favorite research sources.

Writing for the Web is Special--Here's a Style Book

The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World
The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World

This is mostly AP style, with chapters that address special concerns for those of us who write for the Web.


My Favorite Specialized Reference Books

An Annotated Bibliography

Beers, M. (Ed.). (2003). The Merck manual of medical information (2nd home ed.). Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co.

The main portion of this medical reference book covers disorders of the body arranged by physiological systems, e.g. heart and blood vessel disorders, mental health disorders, men's issues. Appendices cover medical weights and measures, common medical tests, drug names--generic and trade, and recommended resources for further information. Use this book if you need to know the symptoms and treatments for any illness. Journalists ans writers of medical fiction will find this useful.

Considine, G. (Ed.). (2002). Van Nostrand's scientific encyclopedia (9th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Two volumes of encyclopedia articles arranged alphabetically by topic cover the biological sciences, physics, chemistry, earth science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. Black and white illustrations are included, along with an index. Use to answer questions such as: "What is DNA and who discovered it?"

Hazen, E. (Ed.). (1994). The Columbia-Granger's index to poetry (10th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.

This powerful reference tool enables a user to find a poem even if only fragments of information are known about it. Look up a title, first line, last line, author, or subject to find a poem and a list of anthologies in which the poem may be found. The list of anthologies includes starred recommendations for smaller and larger library collections. Writers of literary fiction might also want to add some good anthologies to their home or office reference collection.

Morkes, A. (Ed.). (2003). Encyclopedia of careers and vocational guidance. Chicago: Ferguson Publishing Co.

Volume 1 includes career guidance and field profiles, an organization and website index for further study, and a job title index. Volumes 2-4 contain career articles arranged alphabetically with detailed descriptions of job duties and required education and training. Black and white photographs are included.

Physicians' desk reference (64th ed.). (2009). Montvale, NJ: PDR Network.

This giant volume is a comprehensive guide to pharmaceuticals. Drugs are indexed by manufacturer, brand names, generic names, and product category. The main portion of the text consists of product information alphabetized by name of manufacturer. Although this book is intended for physicians, laymen may find it useful as well. Mystery writers, parents with questions about drug side effects, or pharmacy students are among those who may want to refer to this resource.

Travers, B. (Ed.). (1994). World of invention. Detroit: Gale Research.

This single volume of 770 pages includes an index by subject and general index. A list of sources consulted allows for further research. Entries for inventors and inventions are arranged alphabetically, not divided by field of endeavor. Use to answer questions such as: "Who invented thesewing machine and when?"

Turner, B. (Ed.). (2009). The statesman's yearbook 2010: The politics, cultures, and economies of the world. New York: Macmillan.

Published annually since 1864, this yearbook includes an international organizations index and current leaders index. It covers the United Nations and related organizations, countries of the world A-Z, key world facts, and week-by-week chronology from April through March of the previous year.

Specialized Reference Books: Poetry and Bible

Everyday Biblical Literacy: The Essential Guide to Biblical Allusions in Art, Literature, and Life
Everyday Biblical Literacy: The Essential Guide to Biblical Allusions in Art, Literature, and Life

Many of the classics refer to the Bible. You could as well if it fits your writing topic.


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    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      I'm always looking for better research and study tools. Haven't heard of these so it's good to keep adding to my list. Thanks so much.