A reference source is a compendium of authoritative information, compiled for ease of use.
Reference materials include
Carte Des Isles Britaniques, Royalty free image provided by Steve Bartrick Antique Prints and Maps
Students may ask themselves "what is the use of looking through reference books and encylcopedias when most teachers do not want such material used as sources in college papers?"
Yet, reference books and encylopedias are helpful to students in several ways. Using reference materials is a pragmatic way to find a topic; it will help the student define key words that can be used when searching scholarly data bases for journal articles, and reference materials often come with bibliographies, which might lead to sources that students could use in their papers.