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Tips for Conducting Effective Library Research
1. Before you start your search, break your topic down into several discrete concepts/search terms. Databases, including the library catalog, will be able to retrieve more relevant materials this way. For more flexible searching, think of various ways to express these search terms -- synonyms, broader terms, and narrower terms. This is particularly important for searching in full-text primary source databases. The Search Strategy Process Worksheet can be quite helpful in this process.
2. Then, think about what kind of information resources you need and select appropriate indexes and databases in which to search for material. This step is crucial to efficient identification of quality sources -- both primary and secondary -- for your research.
Finding Primary Sources in the CU Boulder Libraries
There are many primary sources available in the Libraries, including documents (books, letters, etc.) from the period under study, as well as electronic, microform, and printed collections of these documents published at a later date.
You can locate most relevant items in the Libraries by searching in the CHINOOK library catalog. There are several ways to search CHINOOK effectively for primary sources:
As you search in CHINOOK, you will notice that materials have various locations (Media, Gov Pubs, Special Collections, PASCAL, Norlin stacks, etc.). Not all of the materials in the following departments have records in CHINOOK, so the best policy is to visit them as well.
- Do a WORD search on your topic. Notice that you can specify language, location (e.g. Reference), material type, and year. You will get a mixed bag of results including both primary and secondary sources.
- Then add one of the special subject terms that identify primary materials to your search: sources (more general), correspondence, diaries, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, etc.
- Again do a WORD search and try limiting the dates of publication by year, entering the dates bounding your time period. For this search, leave off any special subject terms identifying primary materials.
- Another approach is to do an AUTHOR search for books written by key participants (people or organizations) in the events you are investigating.
- Once you have found a useful item on your topic, take note of the subject headings listed in the item's full CHINOOK record. Click on these links to find related materials.
There is a rich cache of primary source material on microforms in the Media Library. Ask Maureen Van Camp, Head of Media, for help locating pertinent collections and their guides. Some examples include:
- Colonial Discourses
- Medieval and Early Modern Women
- Western Americana: Frontier History of the Trans-Mississippi West
- The First World War: A Documentary Record
- Slavery and Anti-Slavery Pamphlets
- China through Western Eyes
Special Collections also offers primary source material, including manuscripts and printed works, on a wide variety of topics. Special Collections librarians Debbie Hollis and Michelle Visser can help you navigate the collections.
There may be pertinent material in Government Publications, especially items of a military and political nature. Talk to Tim Byrne, Head of Government Documents, for help locating records of interest to you.
The CU Archives holds rich Western Americana collections, especially those pertaining to Colorado. The Archives has primary source material on topics ranging from mining to the military to women. Consult with Archivist Dave Hays to discover whether Archives holds sources relevant to your research.
Finding Primary and Secondary Sources in Library Databases
This is only a selection of databases that are available for your research. If you are not finding relevant sources in these or need more material, be sure to check out other databases on the Find Articles & More: History and other subject pages, such as Biography, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and News & Newspapers.
Early English Books Online (EEBO)
Includes the complete page images of 96,000 volumes in all subject areas published in Great Britain or in the English language between 1475 and 1700, and represented in the English Short Title Catalog and Thomason Tracts. CU
Early American Imprints, Series I. Evans (1639-1800)
Page images and searchable full-text of Early American Imprints, Series I. Evans. Covers every aspect of in 17th- and 18th-century American life including history, literature, religion and foreign affairs. Upon completion the database will consist of 36,000 titles. CU
The Times Digital Archive 1785-1985
Searchable access to the complete backfile of The Times (London), available in full page images. (For full text of the The Times since 1985, use LexisNexis Academic or ProQuest Newsstand.) CU
Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Times
The New York Times (1851-1999) offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue in 1851. CU
Making of America (Cornell)
Making of America (Michigan)
A large and diverse full-text collection of books and journals, mainly from the years 1850 to 1870, made available by the University of Michigan. Michigan's site is heavier on books, while Cornell's is heavier on journals.
A searchable database containing full text images of original manuscripts and printed material, 1492-1969, taken from libraries and archives around the world. It covers Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Oceania and South Asia. CU
Primary Databases & Indexes
Index to Early American Periodicals 1741-1935
This database covers all known periodicals that began and ended publication between 1741 and 1935; the full text of the periodicals is in the American Periodical Series I, II, and III, and English Literary Periodicals microfilm series. CU
Poole's Plus (19th Century Masterfile)
Includes Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906), supplemented by Stead's Index to Periodicals (1890-1902; the "British Poole's") and other indexes to 19th-century publications. CU
Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals - This resource indexes printed sources of Victorian thought and opinion, including 45 of the most important monthly and quarterly periodicals, 1824-1900 (Norlin Reference CD-ROM workstation).
Denver Post Index - Covers the Denver Post from 1963 to the present (Norlin Reference Index AI21 .D458 and AI21 .D459).
To find articles in other periodical sources, particularly local ones, search CHINOOK by the paper name and look for its index. Please note that while we may have indexes for certain papers, it does not guarantee we have the paper itself. For Colorado papers especially, it is worth a call, e-mail, or a trip to the CU Archives or one of the other historical institutions in the area (Denver Public Library, Colorado Historical Society, Colorado State Archives, etc.).
Secondary Databases & Indexes
America: History and Life
Citations and abstracts to social science and humanities literature on all aspects of US and Canadian history, culture, and current affairs from prehistoric times to the present. Coverage: 1964-present. CU
Indexing with abstracts for literature relating to world history -- excluding the US and Canada -- from 1450 to the present. Covers political, diplomatic, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history. Coverage: 1955-present. CU
Bibliography of British and Irish History Online
The Royal Historical Society bibliography, which is hosted by the Institute of Historical Research, is a guide to writing on British and Irish history from the Roman period to the present day.
Bibliography of Asian Studies
References western-language monographs, articles and book chapters on all parts of Asia. Coverage: 1971-present. CU
Provides abstracts of dissertations and some master's theses from Canada, Great Britain, and Europe. Coverage: 1861-present. Abstracts since 1980. Thesis abstracts since 1988. CU
Web of Science
Provides access to current and retrospective bibliographic information, author abstracts, and cited references found in 5,700 of the world's leading scholarly social science, science. and technical journals covering more than 164 disciplines. Coverage: 1970-present. CU
A&H Search: Arts and Humanities Citation Index
Indexes the world's leading arts and humanities journals.
Coverage: 1980-present. CU
Periodicals Contents Index (PCI)
Index to the contents of thousands of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences since 1770
(through 1991), including many history titles. Covers many older journals not indexed electronically anywhere else. CU
Humanities Abstracts/Full Text
Citations, abstracts, and full text covering diverse subject areas of the humanities. Coverage: 1984-present. Abstracts since 1994. CU
Digitized collection of full-text journal articles covering a diverse range of subjects. CU
Full-text access to over 100 scholarly journals in the arts and humanities, social sciences and mathematics published by Johns Hopkins University Press and other university presses. Coverage: 1995-present. CU
Academic Search Premier
Provides full text journal coverage for nearly all academic areas of study - including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, and ethnic studies. CU
Once you have located materials of interest in these databases, if they are not full-text make sure to take down all the citation information. You can print and/or email the citations and abstracts to yourself from most of the databases. Using this information, you will need to search for the source -- periodical title (for articles) or book title (for books and book chapters) -- in CHINOOK to see if the CU Libraries hold it. If so, pay close attention to where the item is located -- in the stacks, Media Library, PASCAL, Periodical Room, etc. -- and in the case of periodicals, whether we have the issue you need.
Finding and Obtaining Materials from Other Libraries
If an item is not held by the CU Libraries, there are various ways you can obtain it through Interlibrary Loan.
Books and Microforms
If you have searched CHINOOK and a book or microform is not located in the Libraries, click on the Prospector button in the upper right-hand corner of the CHINOOK search screen. This action will rerun your search in the catalogs of 16 academic, public, and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. If the item is found, you can order it online through Prospector. You should allow a few days to receive the material.
Center for Research Libraries
Consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries that acquires and preserves traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery. CRL's loan period is much longer than traditional ILL, and purchase requests can be made for materials that fit in with its collections.
If you cannot find an item in Prospector, search WorldCat. It is the closest thing we have to a national union catalog, and it contains records for diverse materials, including books, microforms, archival material, maps, and visual material. It is a wonderful resource for discovering new and obscure material on your topic. Please note, however, that the decision to loan is up to the holding library or archive, and many will not loan unique and fragile materials. You should allow three weeks to receive the material.
You can initiate requests for articles as well as other materials by submitting them through ZAP! You should allow three weeks to receive the material.
The Libraries' Subject Guide for History has links to information for citing your sources, research guides, getting help with research, etc.
If you have trouble connecting to Libraries databases from home, check out our Remote Access page. In general it is best to download VPN software from ITS if you are using a cable or DSL connection.
CU = Resources marked with this symbol are available in campus libraries and to students, staff, and faculty via the campus network. Use of these resources is subject to copyright laws and license limitations. Remote access information.