This guide introduces the research process for finding academic literature, resources and databases that will help you write a university-level essay.
Pick a research topic
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the objectives of the assignment
- Identify the key concepts of your research topic. Need help?
Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- it will help you to become familiar with a topic and will help with search terms
- watch this video: Using Wikepedia Wisely
To find books, search Omni, the library's main search box
- type in the keywords of your topic, or use the Advanced Search option and search by Subject
- use the filters to refine your results to books, as each search can return many different types of resources
To find journal articles, begin with how to find journal articles using Omni.
Key Databases for History:
- America History and Life (covers the history of Canada and the US)
- Bibliography of Indigenous Peoples in North America
- C19, The Nineteenth Century Index
- Libris Canadiana - provides access to Canadian periodicals of historical significance
- Worldcat (searches catalogues of libraries worldwide)
- Project Muse
Basic Search Tips
1. Identify the main concepts of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords.
2. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine keywords and enhance your search. Boolean operators should be capitalized when searching Omni. See below for examples:
- Use AND to combine topics - Canad* AND conquest
- Use OR to between related words or synonyms - women OR female OR girl*
- Use NOT to exclude terms; gambling NOT lottery
- Use quotation marks to search for phrases, such as: "Indian Act" "Rupert's Land" "First Nations"
- Use the asterisk* for word endings to broaden your search - Canad* = Canada, Canada's, Canadian, Canadians
- Use the question mark ? for single character wildcard - wom?n - for woman, women
3. Begin searching for material with Omni, the library's main search box to find books and other sources on your topic. Remember to filter each search by Content type, ie: books, journal articles, etc.
Searching for primary sources:
Search your topic (or historical person of interest) using Omni, the library's main search box, to find primary sources (or reproductions) in the library's collection.
- Keyword searches in Omni that include the following search terms will identify primary materials most of the time: search example: women AND war AND diar*
- Search terms: correspondence, diaries, letters, memoirs, personal narratives, recollections, reminiscences, journal, sources
- Check the bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sourcesyou have found on your topic to help identify primary source material.
- Useful ebook: History beyond the text; a student's guide to approaching alternative sources
- Archives and Primary Sources Databases (comprehensive list)
- Canadiana (premier source for Canadian heritage material)
- Archives de Montréal
- Archives of Ontario
- BC Archives and Royal BC Museum
- Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec
- Canadian Museum for Human Rights
- Canadian Museum of History
- Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
- Canada War Museum
- Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History
- Health Heritage Research Services
- Historica Canada
- Library and Archives Canada
- Virtual Museum Canada
Writing Support Tools
- Don't bury the lede: Writing readable magazine articles (YouTube video)
- Essaying the past; how to read, write and think about history
- Writing Services @ Carleton University