UCB Libraries


HIST 5000: Historical Methods


  • Getting to Know
    the Libraries
  • Starting Your
  • Finding Sources
    in the Libraries
  • Finding Sources
    in Databases
  • ILL and


How do I?
Contact the History librarian



If you are new to CU, it is worthwhile take some time to explore the Libraries. Physically walk around or take a virtual tour of Norlin Library to familiarize yourself with the collections and services in the building. Browse through our web site to get an overview of the resources the Libraries have to offer you.



+ Tour of the Libraries' Web Site


One of the best ways to get the lay of the land is to tour our web site. Below is a selection of resources and services found on the site.


  • Chinook Library Catalog (Find > Books and Media)
    Two versions of the catalog are available - Chinook Plus and Chinook Classic. A breakdown of the functions and materials available in each of the versions is accessible here. Which to use is personal preference.

  • Find Articles & Databases (Find > Articles)
    List of library databases broken down by subject to help you find sources like reviews, articles, book chapters, dissertations, books, and primary sources. Databases can offer information ranging from bibliographic citations to the full-text of historical documents.

  • Off-Campus Access (Using the Libraries > Connect: Off Campus Access / VPN)
    If you have trouble connecting to Libraries databases from home, check out this page. We will be moving to a proxy server for our resources by spring 2014.

  • My Chinook (Using the Libraries > Manage My Account)
    See what you have checked out, renew online, see held items (does not include non-Prospector ILL items), modify your PIN, save preferred searches, and set up a reading history.

  • Accessing CU Materials (Using the Libraries > Borrow, Renew, Request: Non-CU Materials)
    How to request books from PASCAL offsite storage, recall or page a book, etc.

  • Interlibrary Loan (Using the Libraries > Borrow, Renew, Request: Non-CU Materials)
    How to borrow materials from other libraries. You can search and order directly from Prospector and WorldCat.

  • Research & Subject Guides (Research Assistance > Learn: Online Research and Subject Guides)
    Search or browse research and subject guides in a variety of disciplines. Also contains library tutorials, database guides, course guides, and citation guides. You are currently in the History Subject Guide. My contact information is on the home page.

  • Subject Specialists (Research Assistance > Meet: Your Librarian)
    List of librarians responsible for collections, reference and instruction in different subject areas. You can also access subject guides for various disciplines here.

  • Research Assistance Workshops (Research Assistance > Learn: Workshops and Seminars)
    Get answers to your questions about your research projects or using the Libraries' collections.
  • Departments, Libraries and Collections
    L inks to web sites of the departments, libraries and collections in the CU Libraries, with hours and contact information where relevant.

  • Libraries A-Z
    Great place to go when you're having trouble finding information about something particular.


How do I?


Reference Resources


Reference, or tertiary, resources can be a great place to start when you are seeing to develop a new topic. They can provide you with an overview and background information, summarize established knowledge and important facts, key figures, and offer a list of recommended sources or readings.


+ Reference Resources


Reference resources, ranging from the general to the specific, are available to you in print and electronic format and may be found by searching Chinook or looking under the heading History - General, Reference Sources in Find Articles & Databases. A couple of general ones that are useful for a variety of different topics are:

The ABC-Clio eBook Collection includes the full text of hundreds of reference titles on a great variety of historical subjects from a well-known publisher of history reference works. CU


Reference Universe allows you to search for terms in article titles and book indexes from a staggering array of both print and electronic reference resources and also to restrict your search to those available in the CU Libraries. 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
    Sample topic: How women's work change in the WWII era?

  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 "Middle Ages" in the International Medieval Bibliography. This is a common reason for getting too few results.

  6. 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.

  7. Now break down your topic into discrete search terms.


+ Combining Search Terms




  • AND: women AND work AND war (must find all terms)
  • OR: work OR employment (must find one of the terms)
  • NOT: France NOT Paris (must find first term NOT second term)



  • Phrases: “Great War” (must find that phrase in that order)
  • Synonyms: (work OR employment) AND women
  • Truncation and wildcards:
    work* will find work, worker, and workers
    wom?n will find woman and women


You can locate sources for your research in the Libraries by searching the Chinook library catalog. Chinook is where you want to search for books, journals, microforms and other materials but not articles (at least not reliably).


You can see the difference between Chinook Plus and Chinook Classic here.


The primary sources may include documents (books, letters, etc.) published during the period under study or electronic, microform, and printed collections of these documents published at a later date. Sometimes records for individual primary sources contained in electronic databases or microform sets are in Chinook, but most often the intellectual contents are only available in the databases themselves or through microform collection guides (see "Primary Sources on Microforms" below for more information).


+ Chinook 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.


+ Primary Sources on Microforms


The Libraries owns a rich cache of primary sources on microforms that cover all areas of the world. There are different ways you can find out what kinds of sources a microform collection contains, including online guides linked in the Chinook record, printed guides, and tables of contents and indexes that are included on the microforms themselves. Once you have located on which reels items of interest are located, you can order/locate those reels for viewing.


Microform scanners are available in the Research Area on the second floor of Norlin Library. You can make electronic copies of items on microforms and email or save them to a flash drive for free. Microform readers and printers are also available here and in Government Publications.


Some examples of our microform collections are:



+ Special Library Locations for Primary Sources


The following Libraries' departments contain substantial material for historical research in addition to what you can find in the regular collections. Not all of the materials in these departments have records in Chinook, so the best policy is to visit and use finding aids that may only be available on site.


  • Government Information offers a rich array of primary sources, particularly, but not limited to, those relating to politics and the military.

  • Special Collections will also have items of interest on a wide variety of topics. Visit their web page and reading room to discover what they have available.

  • The CU Archives holds rich Western Americana collections, especially those pertaining to Colorado. The Archives offers primary sources on topics ranging from mining to the military to women.



The Libraries makes a large selection of databases available for your research. These databases index materials within certain parameters, whether CU owns them or not. If no full text is supplied of a useful item, that means you will need to look for it in our collections and, if necessary, obtain it elsewhere.


+ Choosing Databases

Databases come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from those with the full text of primary and secondary sources to those with bibliographic citations to primary and secondary sources.


Think critically about what kind of information resources you need and select appropriate databases in which to search for material. This step is crucial to efficient identification of quality primary and secondary sources for your research.


Though on the face of it a full-text database might always seem like the best source of information, don't be fooled! Sometimes the best source to identify primary and secondary sources on your topic may be one that does not necessarily offer full text for all items it indexes. Choose your databases based on the utility of the content/content indexed for your research, not the form in which the content is accessed.




+ Standard Secondary-Source Databases

America: History & Life (for the U.S. and Canada) and Historical Abstracts (for the rest of the world from 1450) are the main secondary-source databases.


There are also more focused secondary-source databases that may be supplemental. Some examples are Iter and the International Medieval Bibliography (for the medieval period), the Bibliography of Native North Americans, the Bibliography of Asian Studies, and ABSEES (for Eastern Europe, Russia and the former Soviet Union).


Consult Find Articles & Databases for your options.


+ No Full Text - Where to Look Next




Once you have located periodical material of interest in these databases, if they do not contain a direct link to full text, make sure you have all the relevant citation information. You can print and/or email the citations and abstracts from most of the databases. Your next steps for getting an article are offered via the "Find it at CU" link if it appears in the database:


  • Search for an electronic copy of the journal by searching Chinook by ISSN under "Library Catalog"
  • Search for a print copy of the journal by searching Chinook by Title under "Library Catalog." If we own the 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 no print version is available, order an electronic copy under "Articles" through ILLiad (document delivery/ILL).

Books, Book Chapters, DVDs...


Do a Title search for the book in Chinook to see if the CU Libraries hold it.


  • You can order an electronic copy of a book chapter we own through ILLiad

If we do not have the material in question, order through Interlibrary Loan by visiting this page.


+ Large Corpora of Digitized Books

These three sources of digitized books are overlapping but also each have unique titles. You can see the entire text of titles that the suppliers deem in the public domain.


You can also search in-copyright titles in HathiTrust and Google Books for occurrences of words. In Hathitrust you cannot look at the actual works, and in Google Books you might see a few pages. Despite these limitations, they can be useful in identifying titles you want to look at and get other ways.

HathiTrust Digital Library

A partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. There are more than sixty partners in HathiTrust, and membership is open to institutions worldwide. HathiTrust brings together the immense collections of partner institutions in digital form, preserving them securely to be accessed and used today, and in future generations.


Internet Archive

The Internet Archive offer permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. It includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages.


Google Books



Interlibrary Loan


If an item is not held by the Libraries, there are various ways you can obtain it through ILL. Visit this page for your basic ILL options.


Please note the amount of time required to supply the material varies. The decision if and how to loan items is up to the holding library or archive, and many will not loan unique and fragile materials. Articles and book chapters are generally faster than books because the loaning library might choose to supply them electronically.


The ILLiad interlibrary loan system is used to make many requests:

  • Log in using your Identikey, and submit the required information for the items you would like to order.
  • The first time you log in you will need to fill out your contact information.
  • If you enter ILLiad from a database, it will often supply most of the necessary information automatically.
  • Please put in a realistic date by which you can last use the material when you submit your request. If the title cannot be supplied by that date, the request will be automatically cancelled. If the title is supplied, the Libraries will have to pay for the loan whether you use it or not.

Below are some useful catalogs for history graduate students to locate ILL materials, with suggested times you should allow to receive them:


+ Books and Microforms


If you have searched Chinook and a book or microform is not located in the Libraries, click on the brown Prospector button in the upper right-hand corner of the Chinook search screen. This action will rerun your search in the catalogs of 20+ academic, public, and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. If the item is found, you can order it online through Prospector. You should allow 3-5 days to receive the material.

Center for Research Libraries

CRL is a 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. Its records are loaded into Prospector, and you can request electronically from there. 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. WorldCat is a wonderful resource for discovering new and obscure material on your topic. If you find material that is of interest to you, search Chinook and Prospector to be sure CU or another Prospector library does not already own it. If not, you can order the needed materials from ILLiad via a link in WorldCat that will populate the request form with data. You should allow up to three weeks to receive the material.


+ Articles


If you are in a database, click on "Find it at CU" and follow the "document delivery/ILL" link into ILLiad. Otherwise, go directly into ILLiad to make your request. You should allow a week to receive the material.


Further Assistance


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 services at the Research Desk on the 2nd floor of Norlin Library as well as at some branch libraries (see "Hours Staffed")


+ From Me