"Reference materials" typically refer to encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, atlases, maps and other related works. They can be very useful to the researcher. At the same time, they tend to serve a very specific, limited function in the research process. To cite a few examples:
- they are designed to be consulted, rather than being read straight through
- they may provide facts and figures in an easy-to-find format
- they may provide concise information to frequently asked questions
- they may contain valuable information for particular subject areas
- they may serve as guides to information
Source: Bolner, Myrtle S. The Research Process: Books and Beyond. Dubuque, Iowa : Kendall/Hunt Pub. co., 2001.