UCB Libraries


Resources for HIST 3020: Historical Thinking and Writing


  • Starting Your
  • Finding Sources
    in the Libraries
  • Finding Sources
    in Databases
  • Interlibrary
  • Further




Reference Resources


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.


+ Reference Resources


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.

American National Biography Online

Biographical work on people from all eras who have influenced and shaped American history and culture. Find profiles of more than 18,000 men and women from all walks of American life, from the well-known to the infamous to the obscure. CU


ABC-Clio eBook Collection

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.


+ Tips for Choosing Search Terms
  1. For more flexible searching, think of various ways to express these search terms:

    • synonyms (related terms)
    • broader terms
    • narrower terms

    Topic: What role did Colorado Democrats play in the formation and passage of the Wilderness Act?

  2. 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.
  3. Adding terms that represent geographical or chronological facets may be useful.

  4. 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 or synonyms, or subtract a facet from your search.

  5. Avoid using redundant or overlapping search terms, e.g. using "19th century" AND "Victorian period". This is a common reason for getting too few results.


+ How to Combine Search Terms




  • AND: Democrats AND environment AND Colorado (must find all terms)
  • OR: environment OR wilderness (must find one of the terms)
  • NOT: Colorado NOT Denver (must find first term NOT second term)



  • Phrases: "Wilderness Act” (must find that phrase in that order)
  • Synonyms: (environment OR wilderness) AND Colorado
  • Truncation and wildcards:
    environment* will find environment, environments, environmental, and environmentalism

How do I?




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.


+ Chinook Classic Searching Tips


The following tips will help you make the most of your Chinook Classic searching:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. You can use the "Request It!" button to:

  2. Requesting electronic copies:

    • You can order an electronic copy of a book chapter in a book we own through ILLiad.
    • You can order an electronic copy of an article in a print journal we own by clicking on the "Request a PDF (UCB only)" button in the record for the print journal (sample record).
  3. 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.


Finding Secondary Sources in Library Databases


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.


+ Selecting Secondary-Source Databases


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. Two databases that are likely to be useful for most this class are:

America: History and Life With Full Text

America: History & Life with Full Text is a database of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. With selective indexing for 1,700 journals from 1955 to the present this database also provides full-text coverage of more than 230 journals and more than 100 books. Strong English-language journal coverage is balanced by an international perspective on topics and events, including abstracts in English of articles published in more than 40 languages. CU

You have access to many more databases than this that might be useful for your research. Find Articles & Databases: History lists a selection of databases by type of sources and geographic area.


+ Periodicals (including Colorado Newspapers)


Reader's Guide

Popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States and Canada. Gives a detailed account of U.S. culture and history. CU


Periodicals Index Online

Millions of article citations from over 4,500 periodicals in published in the arts, humanities and social sciences across more than 300 years. CU


How do I find...newspapers? Look under the "Local" tab for Colorado newspapers past and present.


You can search for articles in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News that are not covered in the places listed here in the Denver Public Library's Western History Subject Index.


You have access to many more databases than this that might be useful for your research. Find Articles & Databases: History lists a selection of databases by type of sources and geographic area.


+ No Full Text? - Where to Look Next

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.




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.


+ Initiating Requests in ILLiad


The ILLiad interlibrary loan system is used to make requests:

  • Log in using your Identikey, and submit the required information for the item you want. 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 Historical Abstracts, 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 library 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:


+ From the Libraries


  • How Do I...? helpful web guides on a variety of research-related topics

  • Ask Us! email, chat, text, and phone reference services are available extended hours

  • Walk-up reference service at the Research Desk on the 2nd floor of Norlin Library


+ From Me