We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Field Guide?

By Christian Petersen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A field guide is a type of reference book, meant to be carried in the field, to aid in the identification of plants and animals. As they are meant to be carried outdoors, they are generally rather small books and not large tomes that would be more convenient in the home or library. They often make use of classification and identification systems called keys by which one may, through observation, determine the exact identity of a specific plant or animal. A field guide may also be intended for the identification of other naturally occurring objects such as gemstones or other minerals and man-made objects such as boats, cars, coins, or antiques.

Early field guides were nothing more than a collection of drawings of plants and animals with descriptions of these subjects. Many early field guides featured engravings of drawings and paintings painstakingly rendered by an artist from direct observation. Before the invention of photography, these field guides were often the only available tool for identifying plants and animals. In the early 21st century, digital field guides have begun to appear, allowing users to access volumes of information over the Internet with tablet computers and smart phones.

The technical depth of a field guide is dependent on the target audience. Some field guides offer generalized classification tools, grouping subjects loosely. More in-depth field guides make use of identification keys to provide exact determinations of identity. Identification keys are made up of a series of statements arranged in such a way as to guide the user through a step by step process. Each step has one or more possible choices, the selection of which directs the user to the next step, continuing until identification is achieved.

While the concept of a field guide was originally conceived as an aid for identifying natural objects, the scope of this type of book gradually became more and more expansive, especially in the middle of the 20th century. Specialized field guides targeting hobbyists and enthusiasts of all types began to appear, and today, field guides for all sorts of things are available. Collectible glass, antique toys, stamps, and wines are just a few examples.

In modern times, field guides for natural objects still often feature drawings in addition to or instead of photographs. Drawings offer a degree of detail and exposition often not captured by a photograph. Field guides for other objects tend to rely more on photographs than illustrations, but this is not an absolute. Modern field guides can be broad in scope or specialized, covering, for example, all the birds of North America or only the flowering plants of an isolated island.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.