Writing Research - Virtual Reference Sites
Here is a guide to virtual reference websites ranging on various topics such as encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, thesauri, translators, phone directories, calculators, clocks, calculators, resources on acronyms and abbreviations, maps, books and periodicals, as well as resources on business, art, literature, medicine, law, science, architecture, U.S. history, education grants and genealogy. Having this guide will help you save a lot of time when doing any type of research if you need a wide variety of references. Take a look at our other valuable information on English as you continue you research and studies.
Encyclopedias and Almanacs
Encyclopedias provide informative articles on a wide array of topics. An almanac is similar to an encyclopedia, but is an annual publication and focuses on lists of facts and statistical information. The following is a list of popular encyclopedias and almanacs online.
- Encyclopedia.com – This is an online reference using more than 100 trusted sources of information.
- The World Almanac – The World Almanac is the best-selling reference book of all time.
- Farmers’ Almanac – The Farmer’s Almanac is a fact almanac on topics such as weather, gardening, household management and cooking.
- Old Farmers’ Almanac – This is an online daily almanac.
- Encyclopedia Britannica – Britanica.com offers an online version of this respected publication.
Dictionaries, Thesauri and Translators
The following references are useful language tools to find definitions, synonyms and translations for words or phrases in various languages.
- Merriam-Webster Online – An online version of this respected publication.
- Dictionary.com – Offers definitions of words in the English language.
- Language Dictionaries and Translators – Dictionaries of various languages and translators are available here.
- The Free Dictionary – A free source for word definitions
- Thesaurus.com - A free online thesaurus.
- Roget’s International Thesaurus – An online repository of synonyms and antonyms.
- Google Translate - A free service offered by the search engine on its web site.
These are links to various contact directories as well as phone and mail resources.
- National Contact Center – Provided by the Federal Citizen Information Center.
- Area Code Locator – Find an area code by geographic location.
- AT&T AnyWho Info – Personal information provided by AT&T.
- Telephone Directories on the Web – Find telephone listings online.
- Switchboard – A digital phone directory for both personal and business listings.
- Zip Code Lookup – Find a zip code by geographic location.
A calculator is a device or program that aids in performing math functions or in the calculation of formula’s and equations. Many general and specific calculators are available online, at the links below.
- Math.com – Math.com offers a basic calculator for free, among other calculators on its website.
- Calculator.com – This website provides numerous calculators online for free.
- Martindale’s Calculators On-Line Center – This is an online resource with thousands of calculators, applets and spreadsheets.
Clocks and Calendars
The following links are resources for telling the time and date in the U.S. and around the world.
- Timeticker – This is an interactive world map of the various time zones.
- U.S. Time Zone Clock – This online clock is set to the official U.S. time.
- Calendar for year 2011 – The U.S. calendar, complete with holidays moon cycles.
- Earth Calendar – This online daybook keeps track of holidays and celebrations all around the world.
Resources on Acronyms and Abbreviations
Abbreviations are shortened versions of words or phrases. Acronyms are a form of abbreviations where each letter stands for a word in a title or phrase. The following links can be used to determine what various abbreviations and acronyms stand for.
- Acronym Finder – Use Acronym Finder to find out what acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations stand for
- Abbreviations.com - This is the largest acronym and abbreviation resource online.
This section provides links to various regional and world maps, many of which are interactive.
- Google Maps – Searchable world map.
- MapQuest – Find locations and get driving directions.
- Library of Congress Online Map Collections – Browse maps contained in the Library of Congress.
- Atlapedia Online – An online map service.
- CIA – The World Fact Book – Contains maps used by the CIA.
Books and Periodicals
The following links provide resources where various books and periodicals that can be read online.
- Google Books – Search for and browse open access books online.
- Bartleby.com – Find the full text of many great books online.
- Directory of Open Access Journals – Full-text journals available online.
- The Online Books Page – Full text books and more, provided by the University of Pennsylvania.
- LibriVox – Download or stream free audio books.
- National Academies Press – Full text books.
- Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations – A collection of masters and PHD candidate writings.
Businesses provide goods and services to the people of the U.S. and are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Below are useful links for the research of various business topics, including consumer information.
- The Wall Street Journal – This respected business newspaper offers much of its content online.
- Google Business News – Google provides up to the minute business news, information and financial quotes.
- U.S. Small Business Administration – This official business link to the U.S. Government offers resources for starting a business in the U.S.
- The Better Business Bureau -The BBB is designed to ensure fair practices of businesses in Canada and the U.S. by assigning grades to companies and publishing them on their website.
- Thomas Register of American Manufacturers – This is an online community of American manufacturers.
- Economic Indicators – GPO Access provides this monthly compilation of economic information, prepared for the Joint Economic Committee by the Council of Economic Advisors, online.
- North American Industry Classification System – The NAICS is “the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy”
- Business Wire - Thousands of companies and organizations depend on Business Wire to distribute their news releases.
- Bloomberg – This is a website that provides business news and information.
- Consumer Information – This Federal Trade Commission site offers practical information on a variety of consumer topics.
- Consumer Action Website - Consumer news, information and handbook provided by the Federal Citizen Information Center.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission - The CPSC offers information on product safety standards and recalls.
- Consumer Reports - Offers consumer news and reviews of products.
Art can be almost anything that is deliberate in design and made with the intention of affecting its viewer. There are several different mediums of art and it has a rich history spanning almost all regions and time periods of human history. The following links are useful in researching the topic of art.
- ArtHistory.net – This is an online art history resource.
- Archives of American Art – The Smithsonian maintains these archives.
- Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History – The Metropolitan Museum of Art provides this art history resource.
- Mother of All Art and Art History Links Pages – This resources is provided courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
- Art Source – Art Source is an online network of art and architecture resources
- Artcyclopedia – This index provides articles on various artists, art movements and time periods.
- Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online – This resource provides a structured vocabulary that improves access to information about art and architecture.
- The National Gallery of Art Teaching Resource – This is an online resource that explores themes in American art.
- Artlex Art Dictionary – This online dictionary provides definitions for more that 3,600 art terms.
- Getty Research Institute – GRI is an art research library that provides access to rare collections of materials.
Literature is the art of the written word, both fiction and non-fiction, used to examine the human condition. The links below are great resources for research on the subject of literature.
- Literature.org – An online library of literature.
- Poetry Foundation - A website for the literary foundation that publishes Poetry Magazine.
- Library of Congress Poetry Resources - An online poetry resource.
- Poets.org – An Academy of American Poets.
- Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes – Find a novel, short story, or poem without knowing its title or author.
- Poetry Reference Resources – Provided by Library of Congress Digital Reference Section.
- Aesop’s Fables Online - An online collection of the writings of Aesop.
The following resources are useful for researching various medical and health topics, self diagnosis and research on medical studies.
- WebMD – An online resource for timely medical advice, news and information.
- ClinicalTrials.gov - Catalogued studies and clinical trials related to various medical topics.
- Merck Manual – An authoritative resource on medical information
- Genetics Home Reference – A resource to use at home.
- Household Products Database – Health and safety information on household products.
- Rxlist – An online pharmaceutical index.
- National Library of Medicine – A catalogue of research databases related to medical practice.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -Online resources about the treatment and prevention of illness.
- Medline Plus - An online service provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine
- National Institutes of Health – NIH senior health resources.
Resources for researching legal issues, case law, statutes and regulations.
- The U.S. Code – Federal laws presented and maintained by Cornell University
- Regulations.gov - Find regulations by federal agency and department.
- Legal Information Institute – This is an institution dedicated to the law at Cornell University.
- Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation - U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
- FindLaw – Search the web and databases for legal information
- THOMAS – Legislative information from the Library of Congress.
- Avalon Project – A project that provides law documents online by the Yale University Law School.
- Global Legal Information Network – The GLIN is a public database of official texts of laws, regulations and judicial decisions.
- The Oyez Project - An archive dedicated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The links below are useful in researching various fields of science, as student, teacher or professional.
- Science – A weekly science publication.
- Science.gov – Search more than 42 databases and more than 2000 selected Web sites for U.S. government science information.
- National Science Teachers Association Learning Center – A science resource provided for teachers.
- Biodiversity Heritage Library – A consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions.
- EurekAlert! - Science News from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- How Stuff Works – Is a Discovery Channel company dedicated to science and technology.
- Scirus - A searchable index of scientific information.
- National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration - The NOAA is an office of the United States Department of Commerce.
- National Science Digital Library – An online library dedicated to science.
- National Weather Service
- Encyclopedia of Life - An online biology encyclopedia.
Architecture is the design and implementation of construction for buildings, cities and other physical structures. The following is a list of useful architecture links.
- Architectural Digest - This is an architecture-dedicated publication.
- International Architecture Database – Archinform provides this database online.
- PreserveNet – Is an historic preservation resource at Cornell.
- Built in America – This is an archive of the Library of Congress.
- Cities/Buildings Database - This is a University of Washington database of digitized architectural drawings.
- The AIA - The American Institute of Architects is a professional association of architects.
- Architecture – This research guide is part of the Environmental Design Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
U.S. History Resources
U.S. history spans hundreds of years, from British colonization in the 17th century all the way to the attacks on the World Trade Centers in 2001. The following resources explore this rich and vibrant history.
- USHistory.org – A resource created by the Independence Hall Association in Philidelphia.
- Harpers Weekly Online: Explore History – Learn about history with this weekly publication.
- Best of History Web sites – A catalogue of useful links to history websites.
- Center for History and New Media – Provided by the George Mason University
- National Archives: Our Documents – Read over 100 milestone documents from throughout U.S. History.
- Digital History - A resource provided by the University of Houston.
- Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History – An online resource for U.S. history.
- American President - A history of the U.S. presidency by the Miller Center of the University of Virginia.
- State Digital Resources – This is a collection of online encyclopedias and historical and cultural materials collections.
- Historical Census Browser – Provided by the University of Virginia Library.
- History Matters – An online U.S. survey course.
- Outline of American History – A chronological presentation of U.S. history.
For parents, students and teachers of all levels, the following links provide educational resources, school indexes and curriculum online.
- ERIC Database – The Educational Resource Information Center’s digital library.
- Index of American Universities – Find U.S. colleges using this useful index.
- TeacherServe - A National Humanities Center project.
- Teachers Page – The Library of Congress provides this online resource for teachers.
- EDSITEment – A site for teachers, students, and parents.
- Peterson’s Guide to Colleges and Universities – A comprehensive guide to college information.
- EDUCAUSE – A nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of higher education through the use of information technology.
- MERLOT – Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching
- Federal Resources for Educational Excellence – “FREE makes it easier to find teaching and learning resources from the Federal government.”
- Gateway to 21st Century Skills - A site provided by the National Education Association.
- Learning Network - An interactive blog by the New York Times, connecting those who teach and learn.
- College Navigator - Provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, an agency of U.S. Department of Education.
- National Center for Education Statistics – Find statistical information concerning education in the U.S.
Resources for Children
Some topics of research can be very difficult for children, due to their complex nature. The following links help to make various research topics more accessible to youth and offer assistance by presenting material in a child-friendly manner.
- KidsClick – This is a search engine for kids, designed by librarians
- BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper – Students can post questions to an online bulletin board and browse free educational sites.
- Resources for Kids and Families – The Library of Congress offers this learning resource online.
- Homework Spot – Browse educational sites, organized by grade level and subject.
- Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids – A cartoon Benjamin Franklin teaches kids about the functions of government
- Kids.gov – Find links to government, and other kid’s sites, through the official kids’ portal for the U.S. government.
- Homework Center - This sit eoffers tutorials on topics ranging from science to language.
- Kidspace – This is an Internet Public Library site
Grants are sums of money awarded by various organizations and government, sometimes under certain stipulations or requirements, that do not have to be repaid. These resources provide information about various grant programs.
- Federal Student Aid Grants – A list of government resources available to students.
- Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance – Provides a catalog of assistance available to state and local governments.
- Grants.gov – This site provides access to more than 900 federal grant programs
- The Foundation Center – This organization is a leading source of information about philanthropy.
Genealogy is the study of successive generations of kin, or family. Find your family and ancestors or perform general genealogy research using the following links.
- The National Archives - A site for genealogists and family historians.
- Ellis Island – The Ellis Island Foundation has a Genealogy Learning Center
- Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Web – A catalogue of useful genealogy websites.
- Family Search – Find your family online.
- AfriGeneas – Genealogy for those of Africans and African American descent
- Genealogy Gateway – This resource provides a genealogy dictionary and census information.
- JewishGen - Genealogy for those of Jewish descent.
Other Useful Links
- Research and Documentation Online
- Public Libraries
- Citing Electronic Sources
- Citing References in Your Paper
- Research and Citation Resources
- Writing: Standard Documentation Formats
- Federal Depository Libraries
- National Network of Libraries of Medicine
- Presidential Libraries
- APA – Electronic Reference Formats
- Public Library Locator