UCB Libraries

Student Studying

Resources for History 4417
Environmental History of North America


Starting Your Research

Finding Sources in the CU Boulder Libraries

Finding Sources in Library Databases

Finding Sources in Local Institutions


Interlibrary Loan


Further Assistance

Starting Your Research


The first step to starting your research is to determine a topic and focus it into a researchable question. Reference resources can be a great place to start when you are seeing to develop a less-than-familiar 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.


+ Some Reference Resources


This selection of 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 electronically and in print and may be found by searching Chinook.

The scope of the Encyclopedia of Earth is the environment of the Earth broadly defined, with particular emphasis on the interaction between society and the natural spheres of the Earth. The scope of the Encyclopedia thus includes: The hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, magnetosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere, and their interactions, especially in regards to how these systems support life and underpin human existence. This includes the social, economic, political, behavioral, technical, cultural, legal, and ethical driving forces behind environmental change. CU


The ABC-Clio eBook Collection, formerly History Reference Online, 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


History Reference Center offers full text of a range of material including over 2,300 reference books and encyclopedias and 130 leading history periodicals. 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




Once you have determined the topic of your research and have focused it into a researchable question, you will need to develop a strategy for finding relevant primary and secondary sources.


Tips for Developing a Search Strategy

Before starting your search, break your topic down into discrete concepts that represent the 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 databases. These 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, broader terms, and narrower terms.

  • 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

  • Avoid using redundant or overlapping search terms, e.g. using "19th century" and "Victorian period" or using "United States" in the Making of America database

  • Adding terms that represent geographical distinctions, time periods, or significant figures associated with your topic may be useful
+ Operators and Punctuation for Combining Search Terms




  • AND: Colorado AND mining AND history (must find all terms)
  • OR: mining OR "geological resources" (must find one of the terms)
  • NOT: Colorado NOT Denver (must find first term NOT second term)



  • Phrases: “Mountain West” (must find that phrase in that order)
  • Synonyms: (mining OR "geological resources") AND Colorado
  • Truncation and wildcards:
    histor* will find history and historical
    wom?n will find woman and women


The Search Strategy Process Worksheet can be quite helpful in helping you develop search terms for your own topic.


Once you've selected your search terms, think critically 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 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?

The History section in Find Articles & More lists a selection of databases by type of sources and geographic area.


Finding Sources in the CU Boulder Libraries


You can locate primary and secondary sources for your research in the Libraries by searching the Chinook library catalog. Chinook contains books, journals, microforms and other materials but NOT articles. Also, 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).


As you search Chinook, you will notice that materials may have different locations in the Libraries' system, including Norlin Stacks, PASCAL offsite, Government Publications, Special Collections, and Archives. If you are wondering where these locations are, you can consult campus library maps and floor plans. Also, if you click on the location link in the Chinook record in question, you will see the location on a map and/or receive more information about it.

Chinook Search


You can locate most relevant items in the Libraries by searching the Chinook library catalog. 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.


Do an Advanced Keyword search on your topic. Notice that you can specify language, location, material type, and year, among other limits. You will get a mixed bag of results including both primary and secondary sources.


Try this example:

Concept 1:



Concept 2:



Concept 3:






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: sources (more general), correspondence, diaries, narratives, pamphlets, speeches, letters, documents, etc.
Concept 1:



Concept 2:



Concept 3:



Concept 4:





primary sources


    • Do an Advanced Keyword search again 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 sources from the previous search.
Concept 1:



Concept 2:



Concept 3:



Concept 4:





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.

    Please note: 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 owned by the Libraries.

+ Other Chinook Tips


The following tips will help you make the most of your Chinook searching.

  • Once you have found a useful item on your topic, take note of the Subjects listed in the item's full Chinook record. Click on these links to find related materials.

  • 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 will appear on the left. You can order a copy of what you want online if is available in another Prospector library. Circulation will contact you when it is available for pick-up.

  • With journals, be sure to look at the holdings information to make sure we own/offer access to the volume and issue you need. If an article you need is in a print journal in PASCAL offsite, you can order the article you are interested in for electronic delivery using the ILLiad interlibrary loan system. You can also access this link by clicking on the location in the Chinook record.

  • Use the "Journals/Serials" search to limit your search to journals, newspapers, etc. Make sure to select "All Collections" if you want to switch back to searching the entire catalog.

  • Use the "Online Library Resources" search to limit your search to electronic reference works, e-books, etc. Make sure to select "All Collections" if you want to switch back to searching the entire catalog.

  • Click the "Find More Resources" button to search for an item in Amazon, look up an encyclopedia article in Encyclopedia Britannica Online, search for full-text, search Google Book Search and Google Scholar, or export a citation into RefWorks bibliographic management software (for more information, see (for more information, see Organizing Your Bibliographic Citations below).



Primary Sources on Microforms


The Libraries owns an exceedingly 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 what reels items of interest are located, you can order/locate them 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:


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.


  • 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. Make sure to check out their collections guides on Environmentalism and Mining. Consult with archivist Dave Hays for help discovering sources relevant to your research.

  • Government Publications offers a rich array of primary sources, particularly, but not limited to, those relating to politics and the military, 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 librarian Jennie Gerke for help locating records of interest to you.

  • 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 librarian Elizabeth Newsom can help you navigate their collections.



Finding Sources in Library Databases


Below is a selection of the databases that the Libraries makes 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 & More: History and in other subject pages such as Biography, Ethnic Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and News & Newspapers.


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 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.


Primary Source - Full Text


American West

This database includes books, journal articles, newspapers, original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material, and rare printed sources from the Newberry Library's Everett D. Graff Collection, one of the finest collections of Western Americana. The material covers 1722 to 1939, with the heaviest concentration from 1830 to 1939. Main themes covered include: Native American history and culture; pioneers, hunters and explorers; mining and the Gold Rush; the Mormon exodus; homesteaders, overland travel and early settlements; cattle ranchers; railroads, transportation and urban history; outlaws, vigilantes and the law; agricultural development and the environment; the imagined West: wild West shows and fiction; Borderlands: Canada and the Pacific Northwest as well as Texas, Mexico and the South. CU

Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
Currently includes 147 newspapers published in Colorado from 1859 to 1923. CHNC contains over 477,000 digitized pages and is a joint endeavor of the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Historical Society, and generous donors throughout the state.


Heritage West

Database that brings together thousands of digital objects from the collections of museums, libraries, historical societies and archives from throughout the Western United States. Included in this database are photos, documents, artifacts, costumes, diaries, oral histories and manuscripts representing the West's cultural, scientific and historic heritage.


Proquest Historical Newspapers: The 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


19th Century U.S. Newspapers

This resource provides full-text content and images from numerous newspapers from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the U.S. The collection encompasses the entire 19th century, with an emphasis on such topics as the American Civil War, African-American culture and history, Western migration and Antebellum-era life. 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.


U.S. 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. CU


LexisNexis Congressional

In-depth research database with access to the full-text of more than 211 years worth of detailed information about Congress and policy issues, including Congressional Research Service reports, member biographies, committee assignments, voting records, financial data, and the full-text of key regulatory and statutory resources. CU

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



Primary Source - Bibliographic Citation

Denver Post Index

Covers the Denver Post from 1963 to the present (Norlin Reference Index AI21 .D458 and AI21 .D459 (1979-2007 in PASCAL).


Rocky Mountain Online Archive

The RMOA database features archival collections from participating institutions in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. The finding aids to the unique collections located in all three states are accessible to scholars, researchers and educators seeking to discover regional primary source materials relevant to their studies in the humanities, sciences, arts, business, and education.


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


C19 : the nineteenth century index
C19 Index is a source for discovering nineteenth-century books, periodicals, official documents, newspapers and archives. For more information on what is in C19, see Guide to C19: The Nineteenth Century Index. CU


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
Database containing comprehensive indexing and abstracting of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States and Canada, plus the full text of selected periodicals. Readers' Retrospective gives a detailed account of U.S. culture and history. Covers 1890-present. CU

+ Finding Additional Periodicals Indexes

To find additional periodicals indexes, 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


Secondary-source databases can also double as primary-source databases if they cover the timeframe you are researching.


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


Social Sciences Full Text

Indexes, abstracts and full-text from periodicals covers areas that include addiction studies, anthropology, criminology, economics, family studies, gerontology, minority studies, policy sciences, political science, psychology, social work, and urban studies. CU


Periodicals Archive Online

Periodicals Archive Online (PAO) is an archive of hundreds of digitized journals published in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It provides researchers with access to more than 200 years of scholarship, spread across a wide variety of subject areas. 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 - Bibliographic Citation


Secondary-source databases can also double as primary-source databases if they cover the timeframe you are researching.


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



Established by the American Geological Institute (AGI) in 1966, the GeoRef provides access to the geoscience literature of the world. The database contains over 2.6 million references to geoscience journal articles, books, maps, conference papers, reports and theses. The database includes references to all publications of the U.S. Geological Survey as well as masters' theses and doctoral dissertations from US and Canadian universities. Each month between 4,000 and 7,000 new references are added. CU



The preeminent resource for accessing the latest U.S. government-sponsored research and worldwide scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information; includes a broad range of engineering, technology, and scientific subjects: aeronautics & aerodynamics, chemistry, computer sciences, energy, environmental sciences, materials sciences, nuclear science, telecommunications and transportation; 1964 to present, updated biweekly. Most items cited in this database are available in microfiche format in the Government Publications Library. CU


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


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.


+ 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:


  • See if it supplies a link to electronic full text under the "Full Text" heading
  • If this doesn't appear, under the "Library Catalog" heading click "Chinook Library Catalog by ISSN" to search for the print version; if the print is offsite, you can order an electronic copy in ILLiad
  • If no print version is available, click under the "Interlibrary Loan" heading to order an electronic copy via ArticleReach; this is also appropriate if we have the journal in print but it's currently inaccessible

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 order it through ILLiad

Non-CU Dissertations and Theses


  • Search for the title in WorldCat and order it through ILLiad

For more information about the various Interlibrary Loan options mentioned here, select the "Interlibrary Loan" tab on this guide.



Finding Sources in Local Institutions


Several area institutions that have rich resources for Colorado mining history. To get an idea, take a look at the following guides:

Colorado Historical Society Library: Mines and Mining


Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy: Mining and Agriculture


Colorado School of Mines Arthur Lakes Library: Mining History Archive



Interlibrary Loan


If an item is not held by the Libraries, there are various ways you can obtain it through Interlibrary Loan. Please note, however, the decision to loan items is up to the holding library or archive, and many will not loan unique and fragile materials. How much time it takes to fill the request can range from 24 hours to never, depending on the item. Articles are generally faster than books because the loaning library might choose to supply them electronically. Below are suggested times you should allow to receive the material via the different delivery methods. If you order it and do not use it, the Libraries will of course have to pay for the loan anyway.


You can initiate requests for all types of materials by submitting a request through the ILLiad interlibrary loan system. 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.


For specific types of material you also have the following options:


+ 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 three weeks to receive the material.



+ Articles

If you follow the "Interlibrary Loan" link in "Find it at CU," you will have the option to order the article in question via the ARL Article Reach service. 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, and phone reference services are available extended hours

  • Walk-up reference services at the Research Desk and Commons Desk in Norlin Library as well as at some branch libraries (see "Hours Staffed")



+ From Me



+ Organizing Your Bibliographic Citations


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?