This course guide is intended to help history students hone their research skills related to finding sources for their essays.
Pick a Research topic
- Read your syllabus and course assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Need extra help? Click on Choosing an essay topic
- 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
Find definitions, identify key concepts by consulting online reference sources
- Atlas of the Gulf States
- Fundamentals of petroleum refining
- Gale Virtual Reference Library
- History, Exploration & Exploitation of Oil and Gas
- Oil; a beginner's guide
- Oxford Reference Online
- SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias
To find books or journal articles, you have 3 options:
1. Search Omni - library's main search box
- type in the keywords of your topic in the search box
- this tool searches most of the library's databases, simultaneously, for all types of material, ie: journal articles, book reviews, books/e-books, newspapers, magazines,videos, reports, etc.
- each search can return many results (much like Google), so you must use the filters to refine your search results
- try using the Advanced Search and narrow by Subject terms (controlled vocabulary)
- remember to login first if you are searching from 'off campus'
- use the Omni Search Tips guide if you need help
2. Recommended databases for journal articles/books include:
- 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
- JSTOR - digital library of journal articles, books and primary sources on all topics
- Reader's Guide Retrospective - reflects the history of the United States in the 20th century
3. Use a search engine:
- Google Scholar (access via the library's web site only). Google Scholar is a large search engine that searches information on the web and provides links to full-text articles to which the Carleton Library subscribes, or to articles made freely available by the publisher. It also provides articles from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and scholarly articles posted on the web.
- Although it is easy to use and includes 'cited by' and ranking features, it does not provide full text without a library subscription and the coverage for the humanities and social sciences is uneven. There is no 'filter option' for just scholarly publications and very few options to limit or narrow your search results.
Step by step Instructions
1. Identify the main concepts of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords.
2. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR) are command words that are used to combine concepts and enhance your search. By using AND, you are narrowing your search, and by using OR to connect synonyms, you are expanding your search. Here are a few search string examples:
petroleum AND refining AND process*
(petroleum OR crude oil) AND extraction
(asphalt OR bitumen) AND pavement
"oil sands" AND Alberta AND pipeline*
3. Use brackets to group synonyms.
4. Make sure to enclose phrases with quotation marks to keep words together, Example: "oil sands"
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. Begin searching for material with the Omni, the library's main search box to find books, articles and many other sources on your topic. Remember to filter your search by content type for each new search in order to find a variety of material.
7. Here are the filters to use for finding peer-reviewed journals:
- Peer-reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
8. Here are the filters to use for finding books:
- Print physical item
9. Use Virtual Browse at bottom of search results screen to browse books.
10. If you need more help use the Omni Search Tips guide
- Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources for an overview and explanation
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. Boolean operators (command words) must be in CAPS - AND, OR, NOT
Search example: sources AND oil AND history
- Diar* (for diary or diaries)
- Personal narrative
Other search tips:
- Use 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
Historical Newspaper Databases
Primary Sources on the web
Get Help with your writing and citing your essay:
- 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
- Use the "How to" Guide on Chicago Citation Sytle (Notes & Bibliography)
- OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab - Chicago Manual of Style