There are a few reference books you should know about as you become more serious about your research in high school and college. This list contains 5 sources you'll find in every library.
1. MLA Handbook
Many of your professors will require the MLA style of writing for your essays and research papers. Every library will hold a current copy of this style guide, as well as guides for Turabian and APA styles. Find these in your library so you can locate them quickly if you need them!
2. Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
This fascinating resource is not your ordinary dictionary. It offers the history and evolution of every word in the English language, so it comes in a set of several volumes. You can use this resource to look up any word and discover precisely when each word first came into use. You can also observe the many different meanings of the word as it changed over decades or centuries. The OED also lets you know how the meanings of words can be different in different regions of a single nation. This is a must-see for history students. You can find a multi-volume set at your library or purchase a two-volume, condensed set for your home use.
3. World Almanac and Book of Facts
This book is touted as “the best selling reference book of all time” for a good reason. It provides quick access to facts and statistics about everything from science to sports. A new edition is published every year, so you can be sure that your facts are current. This is a good place to start when planning a research paper.
4. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Every writer worth his salt knows that this resource is a must-have manual for students and authors alike. This book starts with “elementary rules” and follows with a whole lot more: students will find excellent instruction for composition, but also lists of commonly-confused and misspelled words. This is one you should buy and keep at your desk!
5. The Times Atlas of the World
This atlas is the standard starting point for students researching people and places of the world. It contains vivid, beautiful, informative maps and a gazetteer (place name dictionary) with hundreds of entries. This is an important source for students in any course.