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English: which resources do I use?: Reference resources

Unsure which resources to use for your English module or piece of research? This guide will point you in the right direction.


A reference resource, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary, guide, or volume of literary criticism, provides general background information on a topic. High quality reference works produced by scholars are an excellent place to start your research, and can give you give a useful overview of a subject.  

Use the resources below to access reference material.


Oxford Reference Online

Search and/or browse across a variety of full text reference resources. 

You can browse by Subject or Reference Type to view particular titles, or search by keyword or author name. 

Included are general reference works such as the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as subject specific works, including literature related titles. 

Use the link below for quick access.

In the example below, a search for Shakespeare has been made and the Search Results have been narrowed by availability.

The search results will include results from all content on the Oxford Reference Online service. Limit the availability options to Unlocked and Free in order to look at all the resources to which you have full access. 


Click on a title to browse the contents or search within the work, as shown in the screenshot below from the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.

In this title, you can access essays from renowned scholars on Shakespeare's work.

For more information on using the OED, see these video guides.


Search the Oxford English Dictionary
OUP-USA Mirror


Historical Thesaurus

Use the Historical Thesaurus, accessible from the homepage of the OED, to explore synonyms of a word over time, arranged chronologically. This resource enables you to see how people have spoken about things, places, people or concepts throughout the 1000+ years of language development charted by the OED.

Click here for a guide to using the Historical Thesaurus, or watch the video below.

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