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Creative Writing: Reference Guides

A research guide for the University of Tampa MFA program in creative writing.

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Almanacs

If you need some quick information about a topic you know nothing about check out encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs for that discipline. Browsing through these sorts of reference materials can also be a rich resource for new ideas.

Should you use Wikipedia as a research tool? Yes. The general rule of thumb is to use Wikipedia as starting place, but not as a cited reference. This is the case for any encyclopedia. They are wonderful for introducing you to a topic, but should not be used as a source in bibliographies or works cited lists.

Online Reference Sources

For general reference check out "Since 1995, Refdesk is a free and family-friendly web site that indexes and reviews quality, credible, and current web-based resources."

Commercial sites Amazon and IMDB are excellent sources for learning more about particular books or movies. provides a wide range of introductory articles. Check out the Reference Resource list at for more reference tools on the Internet.

Wolfram|Alpha can answer any math problem you give it. It also works well with answering natural language math questions (I.e. what is twelve divided by six rather than 12/6.)

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue. In addition to being a tremendous resource for answering citation questions, the OWL at Purdue also includes a substantial number of writing aides and exercises.