HIST 3511: Seminar in Medieval History
- Starting Your
- Finding Sources
in the Libraries
- Finding Sources
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, 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. Here are a selection that might be helpful:
Great resource for anyone studying, or with an interest in, all aspects of European history, society, religion, and culture from 500 to 1500. Its 5000-plus entries, written by over 800 international scholars, provide authoritative coverage of the period. CU
Designed to help busy researchers find reliable sources of information in half the time by directing them to exactly the right chapter, book, website, archive, or data set they need for their research. Each entry is a selective guided tour through the key literature on a topic. CU
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
Tips for Developing a Search Strategy
(1) 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.
(2) Once you've selected your search terms, 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. Are you looking for primary or secondary sources? Covering what area of the world? During what time period? Find Articles & Databases: History lists a selection of databases by type of sources and geographic area.
- AND: clothing AND medieval AND England (must find all terms)
- OR: medieval OR "Middle Ages" (must find one of the terms)
- NOT: London NOT Ontario (must find first term NOT second term)
- Phrases: “Middle Ages” (must find that phrase in that order)
- Synonyms: (medieval OR "Middle Ages") AND clothing
- Truncation and wildcards:
religio* will find religion, religions, religious, religiousity...
wom?n will find woman and women
You can locate primary and secondary 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.
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).
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. (For more information, see the Organizing Your Bibliographic Citations bar under the Finding Sources in Databases tab.)
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 a couple of 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, etc. If you are working with texts, one of the standard terms might work. Given the nature of the source material for this search, however, you need to think about where the items might be discussed or pictured, e.g. archaeological publications on excavations, exhibit catalogs,etc.
mostly primary sources
- Another method is to search for primary-source databases, printed sets of primary sources and microform sets related to the medieval period that the Libraries holds or makes available. The approach should be very broad. More on microform sets is in the section below.
some primary sources
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:
- Medieval and Early Modern Women
- Incunabula: The Printing Revolution in Europe, 1455-1500
- The Medieval Manuscript Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge
- The Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford
- Mediaeval & Renaissance manuscript collections at Oxford Colleges. Section II, Illuminated manuscripts
- The Early and central Middle Ages, c.650-c.1200 AD, the manuscript record
- The Episcopal Registers
The Special Collections Department contains substantial material for historical research in addition to what you can find in the regular collections. It has items of interest on a wide variety of topics, including those relating to the medieval period. Visit their web page and reading room to discover what materials are available (not all of the materials have records in Chinook, and some finding aids are only available on site.)
The Libraries makes a large selection of databases available for your research. If you are not finding relevant sources in these databases or need more material, be sure to look for additional databases on Find Articles & Databases: History and in other subject pages such as Archaeology, Women and Gender Studies, Religious Studies and Art & Art History.
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. Some offer full-text primary sources that are keyword-searchable and others do not (in which case you need to search records within the database to access the full text). Some indexes have links directly to full text, others use a link resolver ("Find it at CU") to help you find electronic and print full text, and still others require you to look in Chinook as a separate step to find the full text.
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 an electronic or print index. Choose your databases based on the utility of the content/content indexed for your research, not the form in which the content is delivered.
The main secondary-source databases for the medieval period are Iter and the International Medieval Bibliography. There are also supplemental secondary-source databases that may include a medieval aspect, e.g. the Bibliography of British & Irish History, Art Full Text, Bibliography of the History of Art, ATLA Religion and Humanities Full Text. Consult Find Articles & Databases for your options.
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.
Eurodocs: Online Sources for European History
These links connect to European primary historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated.
Largest online resource of medieval and Byzantine textual sources, edited by Paul Halsall of Fordem University.
Once you have found relevant material, you may wish to manage your bibliographic information using specialized software. The Libraries have subscribed to RefWorks, which is available to all CU students.
For detailed information on adding citations to the database, creating a bibliography, and more in How Do I...Use RefWorks?
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 locatating ILL materials, with suggested times you should allow to receive them:
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.
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.
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.
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: