This article was contributed by Spencer Jardine, Coordinator of Instruction. He regularly writes about information literacy on his blog.
In many of the instruction sessions I teach, I like to emphasize the importance of consulting reference materials. Reading an article from an encyclopedia can help you know the basics on a given topic. Reference materials generally do not need to be cited, as they often include information that the experts in that field consider common knowledge on that topic. In several places the index finger symbol is used in close association with reference books, and rightly so, because reference books point or refer you to other sources. Near the end of an encyclopedia article a bibliography or list of sources appears, directing you to sources that contain more in-depth research/information.
Here are some more reference books worth looking at:
1. Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships: contains animal rights information, articles on anthropomorphism, and entries about humans and animals in art, biology, economics, film, etc. Useful features include cross references, side bars, list of and references.
Some may find it annoying that major topics may be split among different volumes, so a section on animals in film might start in one volume and conclude in another. Since there is no list of subheadings, consult the index to find specific items of interest. The art section appeared to be rather short.
Call Number: QL85 .E53 2007.
Note: The editor of this encyclopedia is Marc Bekoff, a founder of an animal-rights group, so the encyclopedia will be a bit slanted in that direction.
2. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals provides information on all types of ocean mammals and includes 16 color images toward the beginning of the volume. It has over 1400 pages and includes a useful index.
Call Number: QL713.2 .E63 2002
Entries give specific information on various species, such as their taxonomy, anatomical and physiological feature, population size, ecology, eating or foraging habits, life cycles, behavior, demographic parameters, and relations with humans. Maps portray their habitat ranges, black-and-white photographs give an idea of what they look like, and a list of references point to further information.
General articles talk about marine-mammal fossils, coloration of marine mammals, sociobiology, swimming, and many other related subjects.
3. Marine Mammals of the World: A Comprehensive Guide to their Identification is a newer volume (2008) and includes beautiful color photographs of animals in their aquatic settings. It contains a glossary of terms, an index, references, skull morphology, and a dichotomous identification key.
As the title suggests, this book seeks to aid individuals so they may “more easily identify marine mammals that they may come across during trips to sea, while walking on the beach, or when visiting a museum or other research collection” (xi). By marine mammals they mean “cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals sea lions, and walruses), sirenians (manatees, dugongs, and sea cows), marine and sea otters, and the polar bear. [...] The term marine mammal, therefore, implies no systematic or taxonomic relationship. In fact, the cetaceans are more closely related to camels and hippos than they are to other marine mammals, the pinnipeds have more in common with bears and weasels, and the sirenians are more closely allied to elephants and hyraxes. These differences no withstanding, however, all marine mammals have one thing in common–they derive all (or most) of their food from marine (or sometimes fresh) water” (1). Not surprisingly, this book is organized by these group distinctions.