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Resources for History 7156
Seminar in American Diplomatic History: The American Empire


Tips for Conducting Effective Library Research

1. Before you start your search, break your topic down into several discrete concepts/search terms. Databases, including the library catalog, will be able to retrieve more relevant materials this way. For more flexible searching, think of various ways to express these search terms -- synonyms, broader terms, and narrower terms. This is particularly important for searching in full-text primary source databases. The Search Strategy Process Worksheet can be quite helpful in this process.

2. Then, think about what kind of information resources you need and select appropriate indexes and databases in which to search for material. This step is crucial to efficient identification of quality sources -- both primary and secondary -- for your research.

Finding Primary Sources in the CU Boulder Libraries

There are many primary sources available in the Libraries, including documents (books, letters, etc.) from the period under study, as well as electronic, microform, and printed collections of these documents published at a later date.


You can locate most relevant items in the Libraries by searching in the CHINOOK library catalog. There are several ways to search Chinook effectively for primary sources:

  • Do a Advanced KEYWORD search on your topic. Notice that you can specify language, location (e.g. Reference), material type, and year. You will get a mixed bag of results including both primary and secondary sources.
    • Then add one of the special subject headings that identify primary materials to your search: source(s) (more general), correspondence, diaries, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, etc. You also might try terms like hearing and report.
    • Again do a Keyword search and try limiting the dates of publication by year, entering the dates bounding your time period. For this search, leave off any special subject terms identifying primary materials.
  • Another approach is to do an AUTHOR search for books written by key participants (people or organizations) in the events you are investigating.
  • Once you have found a useful item on your topic, take note of the SUBJECT HEADINGS listed in the item's full Chinook record. Click on these links to find related materials.

Other Chinook Tips

  • Take note of the availability and location of an item; by clicking on a location's link in the record, you will see it on a map and/or receive more information about it.
  • In the case of journals, also look at the holdings information, to make sure we own the volume and issue you need. You may wish to check the E-Journal Finder as well, since not all e-journal information is available in Chinook.
  • Use the Internet Sources Only search to find electronic reference works, e-books, etc.

Library Locations

The following departments all contain substantial material for historical research. Not all of the material in them have records in Chinook, so the best policy is to visit them as well.

There will be pertinent material in Government Publications, especially items of a military, political, and diplomatic nature. Talk to Jennie Gerke for help locating records of interest to you. Some examples of primary-source microform collections are:

  • Records of the U.S. Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of [Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, etc.]
  • Japan and the United States: Diplomatic, Security and Economic Relations, 1960-1976
  • China and the United States, 1960-1998: From Hostility to Engagement
  • The Lyndon B. Johnson National Security Files, [Vietnam, Latin America, etc.]
  • Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, [Iraq, Egypt, etc.]

There is a rich cache of primary source material on microforms available from circulation. Some examples include:

  • The First World War: A Documentary Record
  • China through Western Eyes
  • Presidential Diaries, 1938-1945
  • David B. Bolen Papers

The CU Archives holds rich Western Americana collections, especially those pertaining to Colorado. The Archives has primary source material on topics ranging from mining to the military to women. Consult with Archivist Dave Hays to discover whether Archives holds sources relevant to your research.

Finding Primary and Secondary Sources in Library Databases

Below is a selection of databases that are available for your research. If you are not finding relevant sources in these or need more material, be sure to check out other databases on the Find Articles & Databases: History and other subject pages, such as International & Area Studies, Political Science & Government, and News & Newspapers.

Primary Source Full-Text

DDRS: Declassified Documents Reference Service
Access to selected, previously classified government documents. Full text searchable documents range from correspondence and memoranda to minutes of cabinet meetings, technical studies, national security policy statements and intelligence reports. CU


Digital National Security Archive
Online collection of The National Security Archives, a non-profit research institute and library in Washington, D.C., which provides public access to declassified government documents obtained through extensive use of the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). CU


US Congressional Serial Set
The bound, sequentially numbered volumes of all the Reports, Documents, and Journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives constitute a rich source of primary source material on all aspects of American history. Upon completion, the digital version of the Serial Set will consist of approximately 13,800 volumes and over 12 million pages. Now Available: 1817-1952. CU


Major State Department Publications

This is a collection of the major publications of the State Department including information like Congressional testimony.


Press and Public Affairs Office

This office posts the speeches, press briefings, and other public remarks of State Department officials. This information used to be published in the Department of State Bulletin (1936-90) and Department of State Dispatch (1990-99), but now can only be found on the State Department web site.

The Times Digital Archive 1785-1985
Searchable access to the complete backfile of The Times (London), available in full page images. (For full text of the The Times since 1985, use LexisNexis Academic or ProQuest Newsstand.) CU


Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Times
The New York Times (1851-2001) offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue in 1851. CU

Colorado Digitization Program
Access to the visual and oral record of Colorado's history, culture, government and industry in full text and graphic content. Includes Colorado's Historic Newspaper Collection and Heritage Colorado: Digital Collections of the West and on Colorado's cultural, scientific and historical heritage.

Making of America (Cornell)
Making of America (Michigan)

A large and diverse full-text collection of books and journals, mainly from the years 1850 to 1870, made available by the University of Michigan and Cornell University and Cornell University. Michigan's site is heavier on books, while Cornell's is heavier on journals.

American Memory
The premier collection of digitized American primary source material, from texts to photographs, created by the Library of Congress.

Foreign Relations of the United States
Online and in Print

This series includes diplomatic communications, memoranda, diplomatic notes, and other documents tracing the formulation of foreign policy decisions. There is at least a twenty-five year lag in the declassification of these documents, but it has been published since 1825.

LexisNexis Congressional
Provides access to congressional bills and bill status, debate, testimony presented at hearings, legislative histories, congressional reports and documents, laws, proposed and existing regulations, and biographical, financial and voting record information for members of Congress. CU

Primary Source Indexes

National Archives of the United States (NARA)

NARA, as the archive for the federal government, has released numerous state department documents such as dispatches, correspondence, etc. from the State Department. To see what NARA has released go to: . The government publications library has a number of these collections on microfilm, they are all cataloged in Chinook. Search for these titles using the Keyword search and the following search strategy: [Country Name] and (department of state or national archives) and micro*. Ex: Chile and (department of state or national archives) and micro*.



This database contains complete citations to UN documents and publications since 1946. CU is a UN depository, so the majority of these documents should be available in print or microfiche.


Index to Early American Periodicals 1741-1935
This database covers all known periodicals that began and ended publication between 1741 and 1935; the full text of the periodicals is in the American Periodical Series I, II, and III, and English Literary Periodicals microfilm series. CU

To find articles in other periodical sources, particularly local ones, search Chinook by the paper name and look for its index. Please note that while we may have indexes for certain papers, it does not guarantee we have the paper itself. For Colorado papers especially, it is worth a call, e-mail, or a trip to the CU Archives or one of the other historical institutions in the area (Denver Public Library, Colorado Historical Society, Colorado State Archives, etc.).

Secondary Source Full-Text

ACLS History E-Book (HEB) Project
A cross-searchable, online collection of over 900 books in the field of history. Currently the majority are previously published "backlist" titles, carefully selected works of major importance that are regularly consulted by students and scholars. The project also includes "frontlist" titles, entirely new titles in electronic format. Over the next few years, the Project plans to add approximately 250 titles annually to the collection, including new frontlist titles. CU


Academic Search Premier
Provides full text journal coverage for nearly all academic areas of study - including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, and ethnic studies. CU

Secondary Source Indexes

America: History and Life
Citations and abstracts to social science and humanities literature on all aspects of US and Canadian history, culture, and current affairs from prehistoric times to the present. Coverage: 1964-present. CU


PAIS International
Indexes books, periodicals, and publications of international bodies, US and other governments on global policy and social issues. Coverage: 1960 - present. CU


CIAO: Columbia International Affairs Online
Comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs. Publishes a wide range of scholarship that includes working papers from university research institutes, occasional papers series from NGOs, foundation-funded research projects, proceedings from conferences, books, journals and policy briefs. Coverage: 1991 - present. CU

Humanities Abstracts/Full Text
Citations, abstracts, and full text covering diverse subject areas of the humanities. Coverage: 1984-present. Abstracts since 1994. CU


Social Sciences Abstracts/Full Text
Abstracts and some full text of articles in the social sciences.
Coverage is from 1994 to the present. CU


Periodicals Index Online
Index to the contents of thousands of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences since 1770. CU


Bibliography of Asian Studies
References western-language monographs, articles and book chapters on all parts of Asia. Coverage: 1971-present. CU

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 to yourself from most of the databases. Your next steps for getting an article are:

  • Try the "Find It At CU" link if it appears in the database
  • If not there, do a Periodical Title search in Chinook
  • Order it from ILLiad

For books and book chapters, do a Title search for the book in Chinook to see if the CU Libraries hold it. If not, your next steps for getting a book are:

  • Re-run your search in Prospector
  • Search for the title in WorldCat and interlibrary loan it

Finding and Obtaining Materials from Other Libraries

If an item is not held by the CU Libraries, there are various ways you can obtain it through Interlibrary Loan.

Books and Microforms


If you have searched Chinook and a book or microform is not located in the Libraries, click on the Prospector button in the upper right-hand corner of the Chinook search screen. This action will rerun your search in the catalogs of 16 academic, public, and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming. If the item is found, you can order it online through Prospector. You should allow a few days to receive the material.



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 independently to be sure CU does not already own it. If not, you can order the needed materials directly from within WorldCat. Please note, however, that the decision to loan is up to the holding library or archive, and many will not loan unique and fragile materials. You should allow three weeks to receive the material.



You can initiate requests for articles as well as other materials by submitting them through ILLiad. Log in using your Identikey, and submit the required information for the items you would like to order. You should allow three weeks to receive the material.

Bibliographic Management Software

Once you have found relevant material, you may wish to manage your bibliographic information using specialized software. One product available to CU patrons is:

RefWorks is a web-based bibliography and database manager that allows you to create your own personal database by importing references from online databases. You can use these references in writing papers and format the paper and bibliography automatically. New users should create a personal login by clicking on "Sign Up for an Individual Account," entering the appropriate information, and clicking on "Register." CU

A tutorial, quick start guide, fact sheet, and other helpful information is available on the RefWorks web site.

Further Assistance
Still need more help? Or can't figure out how to use a particular resource? I'm always happy to set up appointments to have a more in-depth discussion of your research.

Jennie Gerke

CU = Resources marked with this symbol are available in campus libraries and to students, staff, and faculty via the campus network. Use of these resources is subject to copyright laws and license limitations. Remote access information.

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