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Handbooks and manual


Handbooks and manuals will help you

  • find facts basic to a subject or field of knowledge
  • find formulas, equations, tables, charts, and other commonly used information in a particular field
  • find how-to information quickly

Handbooks and manuals are reference works that

  • are generally single volume works
  • are generally written by experts in a field
  • are often published by professional societies
  • contain factual or how-to information on a particular subject or process
  • are generally written for practitioners
  • present information in a compact, easy-to-use manner
  • often contain instructions on how to do something
  • often contain tables, graphs, charts, symbols, formulas, equations, and specialized terms
  • are constantly revised and updated
  • are increasingly online

Handbooks and manuals have been written for almost any subject you can think of.

Examples of handbooks and manuals


  • The Olympic games handbook; an authentic history of both the ancient and modern Olympic games, complete results and records.
  • Handbook of English costume in the eighteenth century
  • A handbook of method in cultural anthropology
  • Lange's handbook of chemistry
  • Marks' standard handbook for mechanical engineers
  • CRC Handbook of tables for mathematics
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook


  • Role playing, a practical manual for group facilitators
  • Manual of botany; a handbook of the flowering plants and ferns of the central and northeastern United States and adjacent Canada.
  • Distributive education teacher-coordinator's operations manual.
  • User's manual for DuctE3D [microform] : a program for 3D Euler unsteady aerodynamic and aeroelastic analysis of ducted fans
  • The Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy

More about handbooks and manuals

Both handbooks and manuals presuppose a basic knowledge of the subject. They tend to be, but are not always, one-volume sources of information. The biggest difference between the two is that handbooks tend to provide the user with facts presented in tables, graphs, or lists of symbols, formulas, equations, or specialized terms. Manuals tend to offer the user a set of rules to guide behavior or a set of instructions on how to perform a task or a process or build some physical object.

If you are using a handbook or manual for the first time:

  • scan the introductory pages at the beginning of the book
  • scan the index for items related to your topic

To find handbooks and manuals:

  • do a KEYWORD search on your topic area plus either manual or handbook - whichever is most appropriate.
  • do a SUBJECT search in your library's catalog for your topic or the broader subject of which your topic is a part. Then look for the subdivisions "Handbooks, manuals, etc." or "technical manuals"
  • ASK A LIBRARIAN for the best handbook or manual to use for your topic.