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Resources for History 7257
Seminar on the History of the American Frontier


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 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 terms that identify primary materials to your search: sources (more general), correspondence, diaries, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, etc.

    • 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.

    • Let's try some of these examples:

      wom?n frontier famil* letters
      wom?n west (u.s.)   sources
      wom?n west (u.s.)  



  • 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 at the moment.

  • Use the Internet Sources Only search to find electronic reference works, e-books, etc.

  • As you search in Chinook, you will notice that materials have various locations (Media, Gov Pubs, Special Collections, PASCAL, Norlin stacks, etc.). By clicking on a location's link in the record, you will see it on a map and/or receive more information about it.

Library Locations

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

There is a rich cache of primary source material on microforms in the Media Library. Ask Maureen Van Camp, Head of Media, for help locating pertinent collections and guides. Some examples include:

  • Western Americana: Frontier History of the Trans-Mississippi West, 1550-1900 (microfilm 3428; guide Media Z1251.W5 W48 1980)
  • The American West: Overland Journeys 1841-1880 (microfiche 1513; guide Media Z1249.F9 A44 2000).
  • The Plains and the Rockies (microcard 9; guide Henry R. Wagner's The Plains and Rockies: A Bibliography of Original Narratives of Travel and Adventure, 1800-1865, Norlin and Media Z1251.W5 W2 1953).
  • American Women's Diaries: Western Women (microfilm 3893 Western; guide Media or Reference Z1251.W5 A44 1980).

Special Collections will also have items of interest on many topics related to the American West, including ethnicity, Native Americans, exploration and settlement, mining, women, dime novels, and Mormonism. Special Collections librarians Debbie Hollis and Michelle Visser can help you navigate the collections.


Much pertinent material is available in Government Publications, especially items of a military and political nature, for instance on the government's Indian policy. Gov Pubs also holds microforms like Native Americans and the New Deal (Gov Pub micro I 20.2/2:N 28; guide Govpubl index section). Ask librarians Tim Byrne and Jennie Gerke for help locating sources of interest to you.


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 topic.

Finding Primary and Secondary Sources in Library Databases

This is only 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 like Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, News & Newspapers, and Political Science & Government.

Primary Source Full-Text Databases and Indexes

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


Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800
Page images and searchable full-text of Early American Imprints, Series I. Evans. These 36,000 titles cover every aspect of in 17th- and 18th-century American life including history, literature, religion and foreign affairs.This database can be searched in tandem with other Archive of Americana databases (America's Historical Newspapers, American State Papers, and U.S. Congressional Serial Set) by clicking on "Archive of Americana" once you have entered the database. CU

Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819
Covering every aspect of American life during the early decades of the United States, this primary source collection provides full-text access to the 36,000 American books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the first nineteen years of the nineteenth century. This database can be searched in tandem with other Archive of Americana databases (America's Historical Newspapers, American State Papers, and U.S. Congressional Serial Set) by clicking on "Archive of Americana" once you have entered the database. CU


America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1900: Early American Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876 and Series II, 1758-1900
Series I offers fully searchable, cover-to-cover reproductions of nearly 350,000 issues from over 700 historical American newspapers focusing largely on the 18th century.  Series II complements Series I by offering fully searchable digital facsimiles of several hundred thousand issues from more than 200 significant 18th- and 19th-century newspapers.  These digital editions are based on Clarence S. Brigham's "History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820" and other authoritative bibliographies and primarily on the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society, which houses a comprehensive collection of American newspapers through 1876. America's Historical Newspapers can be cross-searched with other Archive of Americana databases (Early American Imprints, American State Papers, and U.S. Congressional Serial Set) by clicking on "Archive of Americana" once you have entered the database. CU


American State Papers, 1789-1838
A retrospective republication of approximately 6280 numbered publications, largely Congressional but also containing Executive Department materials. This database can be searched in tandem with other Archive of Americana databases (America's Historical Newspapers, US Congressional Serial Set, and Early American Imprints) by clicking on "Archive of Americana" once you have entered the database. CU

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980
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: 15th Congress - 56th Congress, 1st Session, 1817-1900; Serial Set Vols. 1 - 3896 (through S.Rpt. 1675). This database can be searched in tandem with other Archive of Americana databases (America's Historical Newspapers, American State Papers, and Early American Imprints) by clicking on "Archive of Americana" once you have entered the database. CU


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.

Collaborative 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 West.

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


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

Poole's Plus (19th Century Masterfile)
Includes Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906), supplemented by Stead's Index to Periodicals (1890-1902; the "British Poole's") and other indexes to 19th-century publications. CU


Readers' Guide Abstracts/Full Text
Readers' Guide Retrospective 1880-1992

Abstracts and some full text of articles from popular magazines. CU

Denver Post Index - Covers the Denver Post from 1963 to the present (Norlin Reference Index AI21 .D458 and AI21 .D459).

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 (Boulder Public Library, Denver Public Library, Colorado Historical Society, Colorado State Archives, etc.).

Secondary Source Full-Text Databases & 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. For other areas of the world, see Historical Abstracts. One or both databases may be searched from the same interface. Coverage: 1964-present. CU


Bibliography of Native North Americans
Indexes works published from the sixteenth century to the present, including monographs, essays, journal articles, dissertations and other publications. Areas covered include native American topics and issues, including anthropology, political science, sociology, psychology, education, and legal and medical research. Updated semi-annually. CU


Women's Studies International
Covers the core disciplines in Women's Studies to the latest scholarship in feminist research. Coverage: 1972-present. CU


ACLS History E-Book (HEB) Project
A cross-searchable, online collection of over 1,200 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


Humanities Abstracts/Full Text
Abstracts covering diverse subject areas of the humanities. Coverage: 1984-present. Abstracts since 1994. CU


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


WWW Virtual Library: History: United States

Gateway offering links to hundreds of sites providing historical resources on the United States. Check out the links on the American West, Ethnic Studies, and Women's History.

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 "Search for Full Text" link if it appears in the database
  • Try searching the journal title in the E-Journal Finder
  • 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

For non-CU dissertations and theses, search for the title in WorldCat and try to 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 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 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 and Prospector to be sure CU or another Prospector library 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 and 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. The CU Libraries have subscribed to RefWorks, which is available to all CU patrons.

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

The CU Libraries offers detailed information on adding citations to the database, creating a bibliography, and more in How Do I...Use RefWorks?

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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