Other Reference Books
You're still not finished with the reference section. This is why entire floors of main libraries are devoted to reference material and are staffed by reference librarians. A good library contains a vast amount of reference material that goes far beyond encyclopedias and other basic references.
There are many reference materials not mentioned here that could be useful to you. These include telephone books, business indexes, gazetteers, maps, books of quotations, flag databases, census data, and more. A reference librarian can help you find all the sources available in your particular library.
A directory is a basically a listing of resources. There are directories for innumerable topics, and new directories are published every year. Many times you will find that a directory leads you to another source for further information. There you will find the contact information for that source and can take the next steps to learning more from it. When you contact each source, explain that you are a student doing a research paper, and briefly describe the topic of your paper. Most organizations are happy to provide you with what you are looking for, and sometimes will even assist you with more than you originally ask for. For instance, if you were researching the reaction of victims after a natural disaster, you could find a directory of world relief organizations. You could then write or phone each of them asking for specific information about past disasters and stories of how people reacted. From these contacts you might get a much more personal perspective on the events than you could from the factual information that you read. In addition to sending you information or answering your questions directly, some of the contact people may allow you to interview them, and you could receive photos or other printed material.
A yearbook is similar to an almanac in that it is printed each year. However, a yearbook contains information specific to that year only, and usually is confined to a narrow subject. A well-known example of a yearbook is the Guinness Book of World Records. Libraries generally have the past few years of any yearbooks they keep in their collection, and they can usually locate a yearbook for a specific year you are looking for.
You may find that your topic spans many years, and that you need to look at a specific type of yearbook for each of those years. Make sure that the information you believe you will find in the yearbook is worth the time it will take you to search through all those volumes. Could you find the same information in an almanac? Will you just be duplicating the facts you already researched? Suppose your topic deals with the progressions made in space exploration over the years and whether or not their expense is warranted. You could look up information in a yearbook such as the Guinness Book of World Records. There you would find facts about the longest manned space flight or the largest planetary rover, which could be relevant to your paper. These facts obviously would be updated as the years go by, so you could check this book from different years to see how and when the information changed. However, this information could also be available from a single source that would also include other details, such as costs. In this specific case, you might try to obtain information directly from NASA, or you could look through a space almanac.
Reference material is available in an almost overwhelming amount. This is true of all reference sources, not just yearbooks. Make sure that you find all that you need, but don't go overboard and waste valuable time on this segment of your research.
Yearbooks are not always for a calendar year. Just like school yearbooks, they may follow a different range of dates. This could be a seasonal year or a fiscal year or whatever range suits the topic.
Though a thesaurus doesn't seem like a logical tool for research work, it can help in subtle ways. You can sometimes get stuck looking up the same word or words every time you search for information. Because you are so close to the situation, it is often hard to see which related terms you could be searching for. This is where the thesaurus comes in. If applicable, look up the words you are using to determine whether any of the related terms that the thesaurus provides could be useful to you. For example, for a research paper about headstones, you might find gravestone, cairn, and interment. This gives you other terms to use in your research.
A calendar can be an indispensable tool for certain topics. Many calendars include much more than the basic form you hang on the wall to keep track of days and dates. There are historical calendars for any year in history. Some calendars contain information about special religious days, public holidays from any country around the world, and notable births, deaths, and events on each day in history. You can find ancient calendars, zodiac calendars, and calendars that have information about phases of the moon, sunrise and sunset times, and changes of season.
Keep in mind that these reference materials provide only the background facts to your research. These sources are an essential part of your research paper, but they do not offer any evaluation or interpretation of the information they contain. That will all come from the further research you will do as well as from your own thoughts once you have collected the background information.