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 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.
Full text of hundreds of reference titles on a great variety of historical subjects from a well-known publisher of history reference works. CU
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
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.
- Thinking of terms couched in the language of the time period you are studying is particularly important for searching in full-text, primary-source databases. For historical synonyms, consult the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.
- Now break down your topic into discrete search terms.
- AND: California AND "gold rush" AND "ethnic relations" (must find all terms)
- OR: Chinese OR Asian (must find one of the terms)
- NOT: California NOT "Los Angeles" (must find first term NOT second term)
- Phrases: “gold rush” (must find that phrase in that order)
- Synonyms: (Chinese OR Asian) AND "gold rush"
- Truncation and wildcards:
immigra* will find immigration, immigrations, immigrant and immigrants
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.
When you search Chinook, you will get a mixed bag of results including both primary and secondary sources.
Try this example:
primary & secondary sources
There are several ways to limit your search to primary sources:
- Add one of the special subject terms that identify primary sources to your search, like sources (more general), correspondence, diaries, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, journals, interviews, etc.
mostly primary sources
- Do another search and try limiting the dates of publication, entering the dates bounding your time period. For this search, leave off any special subject terms identifying primary sources from the previous search.
mostly primary sources
- Another approach is to do an Author search for books written by key participants (people or organizations) in the events you are investigating.
None of these strategies will net all primary sources, nor will their results necessarily be entirely exclusive of one another. But they will help you identify subsets of primary sources on your topic inthe Libraries.
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.
- 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).
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.
Finding Secondary Sources in Library 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 back to 1450. These databases index a wide range of journals as well as books, book chapters, book and media reviews, and dissertations.
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
Since you will be using America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts throughout your career as a history major, it is 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.
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 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 under "Articles", through ILLiad (document delivery/ILL). Please 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're 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.
Finding Primary Sources in Library Databases
Look under Find Articles & Databases: History to see what primary-source databases are available for your research. Potentially good for the California gold rush are:
You can make requests for any item we do not hold through ILL. 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: