This course guide is intended to help history students hone their research skills related to historical figures and events in order to discover sources for their assignments.
Pick a Research topic
- Read your syllabus and course assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a person/topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Need extra help? Click on Choosing an essay topic
- Help with Developing strong research questions
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for background knowledge
- Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms
- Watch the video Using Wikepedia Wisely for more tips
Scholarly reference sources
- American National Biography (print only)
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography
- Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion (print only)
- Encyclopedia of World Biography
- Oxford dictionary of national biography
- Oxford encyclopedia of women in world history
- Oxford Reference Online
- SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias
To find books or journal articles:
1. Search Omni - the main search box will find books, e-books, journal articles, book reviews, newspapers, magazine articles, etc.
2. Use the finding Journal Articles instructions
3. Search recommended databases for History:
- Historical Abstracts - covers 1450 to the present of world history (excluding North America)
- America, History and Life - covers all areas of Canadian and U.S. history only
- JSTOR - digital library of journal articles, books and primary sources on all topics and time periods
- Reader's Guide Retrospective - reflects the history of the United States in the 20th century
4. Use a search engine:
- Google Scholar (access via the library's web site only) is a large search engine that finds information on the web and provides links to full-text articles to which the Carleton Library subscribes, or to articles made freely available by publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, etc.
- Although it is easy to use it does not provide full text without a library subscription and the coverage for the humanities and social sciences is uneven with very few options to limit or narrow your search results.
- Remember to login first if you are searching from 'off campus'
- If you need help, use the Omni Search Tips guide
Step by step Instructions for Omni and most databases
1. Identify the main concepts of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords.
2. Use Boolean operators in caps (AND, OR, NOT) on Omni to combine concepts and enhance your search. By using AND, you are narrowing your search; use OR to connect synonyms and expand your search; use NOT to eliminate a word.
3. Use brackets to group synonyms together: (women OR female)
4. Make sure to enclose phrases with quotation marks to keep words together, Example: "women in politics"
5. Use the truncation (or stemming) to broaden your search. The asterisk * at the end of a root word will search various word endings. Example: Canad* = Canada's, Canadian | wom*n = women, woman
6. Remember to filter your search results by content type. For peer-reviewed journals, select the following filters:
- Peer-reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
7. Use the Virtual Browse at bottom of search results screen to browse books.
8. If you need more help use the Omni Search Tips guide
- Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources for an overview and explanation of these sources
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 our collection. Keyword searches that include the following terms will identify primary materials most of the time: Diary, Correspondence, Letters, Memoirs, Personal narratives, Recollections, Reminiscences, Journal, Sources
Other search tips:
- Search the bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sources on your topic to help identify primary source material
- Useful book: History beyond the text: a student's guide to approaching alternative sources
Citing Primary Sources
- Archives and Primary Sources (list of subscribed databases at Carleton)
Historical Newspaper Databases
Digital primary sources on the web
- Essaying the past; how to read, write and think about history
- Writing a thesis statement (Youtube video)
- Writing an outline (web page)
- Writing an Annotated Bibliography