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What's in the Library: Books: Using Reference Books

Using Reference Books: An Example

There is nothing more frustrating than building a THEORY and CONTEXT on your own, then being unable to find any supporting sources!  Instead, gradually build your argument based on what you find.

Reference books will help you find pre-existing theories, so that you can map these onto a particular context. In a way, they give you a conceptual  road-map to art movements, genres, theories and the theorist who promote them. 

When building up a set of questions using reference books be sure to:

  • use information sources to guide you in the process  and let the information retrieved help you CREATE a hypothesis (general theory) then begin figuring our how to PROVE a hypothesis using books and journal articles

Case-Study: Kensington Market (Toronto)


When searching for a “general theory” to understanding urban planning, the entry on “Urban Environments and Human Behavior” from The Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology  offers a seminal glossary of terms that you can then use to:
  • translate your thoughts on the topic into terminologies used in urban planning
  • create new keywords to use when searching for books or journal articles

Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Ed. Charles Donald Spielberger. Oxford: Elsevier, 2004. Credo Reference. Web

Now begin evaluating these urban behaviours in CONTEXT by searching for books using:

  • key terms from the encyclopedia entry
  • recommended related articles 
  • the bibliography of books and journal articles listed to find key authors on your topic

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Modern Library, 1961/2011.  Call Number: NA9030 J2

Moser, Gabriel. "Urban Environments and Human Behavior." Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Ed. Charles Donald Spielberger. Oxford: Elsevier Science & Technology, 2004. Credo Reference. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.