UCB Libraries

Student Studying

Resources for History 3020
Historical Thinking and Writing


I. Starting Your Research

II. Developing a Search Strategy

III. Finding Secondary Sources

IV. Interlibrary Loan

V. Further Assistance

Starting Your Research


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.


+ Selected Reference Resources


This selection of electronic reference resources is intended to give you an idea how useful they can be. Many more, ranging from the general to the specific, are available to you in print and electronic form and may be found by looking under the heading History - General, Reference Sources in Find Articles & Databases.

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


Oxford Dictionary of African Biography

Dictionary of African Biography provides a comprehensive overview of the lives of the men and women who shaped Africa’s history. Unprecedented in scale, DAB covers the whole continent and encompasses the full scope of history from Queen Hatsheput of Egypt (1490–1468 BCE) to Nelson Mandela of South Africa (b. 1918). Subjects are drawn from all walks of life, including philosophers, politicians, activists, entertainers, scholars, poets, scientists, religious figures, kings, and everyday people. CU

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
    The Search Strategy Process Worksheet can be quite helpful in helping you develop search terms for your own topic.

  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, synonyms or subtract a facet from your search.

  5. Avoid using redundant or overlapping search terms, e.g. using "19th century" AND "Victorian period", or using "United States" in the America: History and Life database. This is a common reason for getting too few results.


+ How to Combine Search Terms




  • AND: "Mau Mau" AND women AND kenya (must find all terms)
  • OR: uprising OR revolt (must find one of the terms)
  • NOT: Africa NOT Egypt (must find first term NOT second term)



  • Phrases: "Mau Mau” (must find that phrase in that order)
  • Synonyms: (uprising OR revolt) AND "Mau Mau"
  • Truncation and wildcards:
    rebel* will find rebel, rebels and rebellion
    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 Classic catalog. Chinook Classic contains 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:

    • Order a title for pickup at a CU library of your choice, including PASCAL titles. PASCAL is the Libraries' offsite storage facility.
    • 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. 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.
  1. Click the "Find More Resources" button to look up a topic in Encyclopedia Britannica Online, search Google Scholar, or export a citation into RefWorks bibliographic management software (available to all CU students).

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.


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. These databases index a wide range of journals as well as books, book chapters, book and media reviews, and dissertations.

Historical Abstracts With Full Text

Historical Abstracts with Full Text is a resource that covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 forward, including world history, military history, women’s history, history of education, and much more. This database provides selective indexing of historical articles from more than 3,100 journals in over 40 languages back to 1955. With access to the full text of more than 380 journals and more than 140 books, Historical Abstracts is unmatched in its scope and breadth of historical and related social science literature. CU

+ HA Searching Tips


Since you will be using Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life throughout your career as a history major, it's definitely worthwhile to acquaint yourself with their features. Thankfully the interface is the same for both.

  • The databases can be searched together if desired by selecting them from the drop-down on the advanced search screen.

  • The full selection of limits are available from the advanced search screen:

    • One of the nicest features is the historical period limit. This allows you to select the period the articles are about, rather than when they were published.
    • Other helpful limits include document type (e.g., book review) and language.
    • Although on the face of it checking full text seems obvious, don't be fooled! Sometimes the best articles may not have full text directly linked in the database. Leave the full text box unchecked to review the breadth of material available on your topic and choose based on the utility of the content for your research, not the form in which the content is delivered.
  • Notice the limits on the left side of the results screen. You can limit, e.g., by date of publication, or select subject terms from the ones suggested.

  • As in Chinook Classic, when you find an item of interest, open the full record and look at:

    • The abstract, which will give you a good idea of what the item is about before you go looking for it.
    • Subject and geographic terms, which you can click on and the database will pull up all other items with those terms. Using these terms will result in more targeted searches.
  • You can print, save, email, or export records to bibliographic management software, among other actions, either from within the full record for an item or by adding them to your folder.


+ No Full Text? - Where to Look Next

Some results 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 for full text in our collections, in either electronic or print, by searching Chinook.




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:


  • Search for an electronic or print copy of the journal by searching Chinook by ISSN or Title (under "Library Catalog").
  • If the article you need is in a print journal, look at the holdings information to make sure we have access to the volume and issue you need.
  • You can order an electronic copy of a print article in our collections by clicking on the "Request a PDF (UCB only)" button in the record for the journal (sample record).
  • If the article is not available in our collections, you can order it by clicking Document Delivery/ILL (under "Articles"). Please be sure to indicate a realistic date by which you can last use the material.

Books and Book Chapters


Your next steps in "Find It at CU" are:

  • Search for an electronic or print copy of the book by searching Chinook by ISBN or Title (under "Library Catalog").
  • Re-run your search in Prospector.
  • If the item is not available in our collections, you can order it by clicking Document Delivery/ILL or going straight to ILLiad (see Interlibrary Loan, below). Please be sure to indicate a realistic date by which you can last use the material.



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're interested in looking at the abstract, and potentially a preview of the first pages of a dissertation, you can search ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.


The Libraries makes many more databases available for your research. If you need more material, check out those under Find Articles & Databases: History.


Interlibrary Loan


If an item is not held by the Libraries, you can obtain it through Interlibrary Loan. Please note, however, 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


You can make requests for any item we do not hold in the ILLiad interlibrary loan system.


  • Log in using your Identikey. The first time you log in, you will need to supply your contact information.

  • Choose the type of material you want to order under "New Request."

  • Fill out the required information. The more of the non-required information you can provide the easier it will be to expedite your request.

  • 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.

  • Some databases and Find It at CU will take you into ILLiad, and will sometimes furnish the needed information automatically.


Further Assistance

Still need help after trying the strategies listed on this guide? 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 services at the Research Desk on the 2nd floor of Norlin Library as well as at some branch libraries (see "Hours Staffed")


+ From Me

  • Stop by my office hours Wednesdays 4-5pm in Hellems 224. Please note any exceptions to these hours listed.

  • Drop by when I am staffing the Research Desk on the 2nd floor of Norlin Library. During the spring 2012 term I am there most (but not all) Thursdays 1-2pm.