Resources for HIST 3020: Historical Thinking and Writing
- Starting Your
- Finding Sources
in the Libraries
- Finding Sources
Reference resources can be a great place to start when you are developing a new topic. They can provide you with an overview and background information, summarize established knowledge and important facts, discuss key figures, and offer a list of recommended sources or readings.
This is just a selection of the many reference resources available, which range from the general to the specific. You can find more by looking under the heading History - Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and Biographies in Find Articles & Databases or searching in Chinook.
Reallexikon or encyclopaedia of the ancient world. Covers Greco-Roman antiquity for more than two thousand years of history, ranging from the second millennium BC to early medieval Europe. CU
Full text of hundreds of reference titles on a great variety of historical subjects from a well-known publisher of history reference works. CU
Tips for Developing a Search Strategy
Before starting your search, break down your topic into discrete concepts that represent its major aspects. These concepts will be used to develop search terms, that is, significant words or phrases (nouns or noun phrases work best) that can be used when searching in online catalogs or research databases. Your search terms will determine the quantity and relevance of results you retrieve.
- For more flexible searching, think of various ways to express these search terms:
- synonyms (related terms)
- broader terms
- narrower terms
- You need to tailor the search terms to the type of material you are searching. When searching for:
- Books and other larger units, broader terms tend to work better because the topics covered by books tend to be more general.
- Journal articles and other smaller units, narrower terms tend to work better because the topics covered by articles tend to be more specific.
- Full text of books or articles, narrower terms or even unique terms like names or places tend to work better because you are searching on the full text.
- Adding terms that represent geographical or chronological facets may be useful.
- If you get too many results, try using narrower search terms or add another facet to your search. If you get too few results, try using broader terms, synonyms or subtract a facet from your search.
- Avoid using redundant or overlapping search terms, e.g. using "19th century" AND "Victorian period", or using "Middle Ages" in the International Medieval Bibliography. This is a common reason for getting too few results.
- AND: Rome AND fall AND economy (must find all terms)
- OR: fall OR decline (must find one of the terms)
- NOT: "Roman Empire" NOT Rome (must find first term NOT second term)
- Phrases: “Roman Empire” (must find that phrase in that order)
- Synonyms: Rome AND (fall OR decline)
- Truncation and wildcards:
econom* will find economy, economic, economics
wom?n will find woman and women
Finding Secondary Sources in the CU Libraries Collections
You can locate secondary sources for your research in the CU Libraries by searching the Chinook library catalog. Chinook is where you want to search for books, journals, microforms and other materials but not articles.
The Advanced Keyword search in Chinook Classic is the most flexible way to search for titles on your topic. Notice that you can specify available items, electronic version, language, location, and material type, among other limits.
The following tips will help you make the most of your Chinook Classic searching:
- From the full record of a relevant title, you can find similar titles by:
- Looking at the Subjects listed and clicking on the links to find other titles in the catalog with the same subject heading.
- Clicking on the "Nearby Call Numbers" button. This will allow you to virtually browse the collection by showing you what other titles would be shelved next to that one.
- Titles may have different locations in the CU library system, for example, Norlin Stacks, PASCAL offsite, or Norlin Library Periodicals Collection. If you are wondering where these locations are, click on the location link.
- You can use the "Request It!" button to:
Requesting electronic copies:
- If an item is checked out or we do not own it, search the Prospector consortial catalog by clicking the brown "Search Prospector to find it in another library" button that appears on the left. You can order a copy of what you want online if is available to be loaned from another Prospector library. Circulation will contact you when it is available for pick-up.
Secondary source databases allow you to identify the existence of materials whether or not the CU Libraries owns them. In addition to larger units like books, you can use them to find smaller units like articles and book chapters that you might not be able to find otherwise.
The standard secondary source databases for history research are America: History and Life for US and Canadian history, and Historical Abstracts for the history of the rest of the world after 1450. These databases index a wide range of journals as well as books, book chapters, book and media reviews, and dissertations. Search tips for Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life are available here.
The fact that Historical Abstracts only goes back to 1450 illustrates the need to be able to use Find Articles & Databases: History, which lists a selection of databases by type of sources and geographic area, to identify databases appropriate for your need. Some things to think about when selecting a database: Are you looking for primary or secondary sources? Covering what area of the world? During what time period?
Major databases you could find in Find Articles & Databases that could help you in this class are:
Bibliography of the European Middle Ages (c. 400-1500). Indexes articles on medieval subjects in journals, Festschriften, conference proceedings, and collected essays. Covers all aspects of medieval studies within the period 450 to 1500 for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. CU
Humanities Full Text
Full text or abstracts of articles, interviews, obituaries, bibliographies and reviews in Archaeology, Art, Classical Studies, Dance, Film, Folklore, Gender Studies, History, Literary and Social Criticism, Literature, Music, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Religion, and Theology. May be searched concurrently with Social Sciences Full Text. CU
Some results in library databases will have a link to full text and others will have the "Find It at CU" icon. When no full text is available, use this icon to search Chinook for full text in our collections. Its nice features include that it helps you:
- Find full text in our collections that might not be linked in the database you are searching
- Search Chinook for the book or journal you are seeking with a click
- Order through ILLiad by populating the request form with the citation information
For articles, be sure to note the citation information so you know what volume and year of the journal you are seeking. Your next steps in "Find It at CU" are:
- Any electronic full text found will appear under "CU Full Text Options"
- Search for an electronic or print copy of the journal by searching the options under "Search the CU Library Catalog"
- If you do not find electronic but we own print, you can order an electronic copy by clicking on the "Request a PDF (UCB only)" button in the record for the print journal (sample record)
- If we do not own either, order an electronic copy from another library using "ILL/Document Delivery" under "Help". Be sure to indicate a realistic date by which you can last use the material.
Books, Book Chapters, DVDs...
Do a Title search in Chinook to see if the CU Libraries hold it.
- You can order an electronic copy of a book chapter we own through ILLiad
Unless you are doing comprehensive research on a topic, it will probably not be worth your while to pursue the loan of a dissertation. The citations in America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts are to Dissertation Abstracts, which only contains, well, an abstract. If you are interested in looking at the abstract, and potentially a preview of the first pages of a dissertation, you can search ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
If we do not have the material in question, order through Interlibrary Loan by visiting this page.
You can make requests for any item the CU library does not hold through Interlibrary Loan. Visit this page for your basic ILL options. Please note the decision to loan items is up to the holding library. How much time it takes to fill the request can range from 24 hours to 3 weeks, depending. Articles and book chapters are generally faster than books.
The ILLiad interlibrary loan system is used to make requests:
- Log in using your Identikey, and submit the required information. Also, the more of the non-required information you can provide the easier it will be to expedite your request.
- The first time you log in you will need to fill out your contact information.
- If you enter ILLiad from a database like America: History and Life, it will often supply most of the required information automatically.
- Specify a realistic "Not Wanted After Date". If you order an item and do not use it, the Libraries will have to pay for the loan anyway.
Still need help after trying the strategies listed on this guide? Or can't figure out how to use a particular resource? Here are some options for further assistance: