Six Common Types of
Dictionaries are used to look up words.
They can be used for a variety of
reasons: definition, spelling,
pronunciation, word origin, part-of-
speech and how it is used in a
There are also many different types of
specialized dictionaries such as a
Biographical or Geographical dictionary.
Biographical dictionaries are used to
find information about famous people.
They usually contain brief facts about
the person’s life such as: birthdate,
major accomplishments and events that
have made the person famous.
If you wish to find MORE information,
you will need to go elsewhere.
Geographical dictionaries contain
information about places. They ARE NOT,
however, a book of maps.
Geographical dictionaries provide
information about a place such as location,
population, industry and famous landmarks.
The information is very brief but will provide
you a starting point to go elsewhere for
A Thesaurus is used to find words that mean
the same or opposite as another word.
These are called synonyms and antonyms.
They are simple to use - just look up your
word and a thesaurus will give you the list of
synonyms and antonyms for that word.
A Thesaurus, however, DOES NOT usually
provide you with a definition (you need a
dictionary for that).
An Encyclopedia is used to find information
about a person, place, or thing.
Articles found in an Encyclopedia are usually
longer and contain more information than a
Encyclopedias are a great place to start to
find information about a topic you know
nothing about, but are not usually accepted
as a source for high school students.
An Atlas is a book of maps.
Atlases are used to find specific locations
such as: country, state, city or geographic
Many people use an atlas when they are
going on vacation or traveling to another
There are also specialized atlases such as
historical and geographic.
An Almanac is a book of facts that
provide brief, useful and interesting
information relating to countries of
the world, sports, entertainment, etc.
They are updated every year so they
always contain the most current
Do you know?
For the next few slides I will describe a
situation. You must decide what type of
reference material would be the BEST
and FASTEST way to find the
• Your family is going on vacation to see
the Mayan ruins in Mexico. You want to
find more information about the ancient
• Where would you find this type of
• Your family is planning a vacation to
Florida. You are going to Universal
Studios! Your father is trying to decide
what interstate he needs to take.
• What reference material should he use
to find this information?
• You are writing an essay on To Kill a
Mockingbird. You want to find another
word to use instead of saying ‘great’.
• What reference material would you use
to find another word for ‘great’?
• Jane is beginning to write an essay in
Sophomore English. She is trying to find the
birthdate of Ernest Hemingway.
• What reference material would she use to
quickly find this information?
Reference materials such as dictionaries, a
thesaurus, atlases, encyclopedias and
almanacs help us locate information QUICKLY
Remember, the Internet is a great resource,
but many times information can be found
easier by using a reference book!