This library 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
- Encyclopedia of American disability history (print only)
- Handbook of disability studies
- Oxford Handbook of disability history
- Routledge Handbook of disability studies
- SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias
To find books or journal articles, you have 3 options:
1. Use Omni - the library's main search box
- remember to login using your MyCarletonOne credentials if you are searching from 'off campus' and to sign onto your Library Account for access to Omni search history features
- type in the keywords of your topic in the search box
- this discovery 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)
- 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 or keywords of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords. Here are some words and phrases to consider using: disabled servicemen, disabled soldier, amputee(s), impairment, World War I veterans, crippled
2. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine concepts and enhance your search.
By using AND, you are narrowing your search, and by using OR (with brackets) to connect synonyms, you are expanding your search. Here are a few examples:
"World War I" AND Canad* AND disability
(disability OR barrier OR handicap)
corona NOT virus
3. Make sure to enclose phrase searches with quotation marks. Example: "shell shock"
4. 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
5. Begin searching for material with the Omni, the library's main search box to find books and 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.
6. Here are the filters to use for finding peer-reviewed journals:
- Peer-reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
7. Here are the filters to use for finding books:
- Print physical item
8. Use Virtual Browse at bottom of search results screen to browse books.
9. If you need more help use the Omni Search Tips guide
Begin with: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources for an overview and explanation of these sources.
Searching for primary sources on Omni:
Search your topic (or historical person of interest) on Omni to find primary sources (or reproductions) in our collection. Boolean operators (command words) must be in CAPS - AND, OR, NOT
Example: "disabled veterans" AND diar* (for diary or diaries)
Keyword searches that include the following terms will identify primary sources most of the time: correspondence, letters, memoir, personal narrative, recollections, reminiscences, journal(s), sources, oral sources, photographic portrait(s).
Another major strategy to keep in mind is that all history books (secondary sources) found on Omni will likely cite primary sources and list them in their bibliographies and footnotes. This will also help you quickly identify primary source material.
Consult this useful book: History beyond the text: a student's guide to approaching alternative sources - considers art, cartoons, photographs, film, TV, music oral history, architecture and material culture.
Historical Newspaper Databases
Primary Sources on the web
- Archives and Primary Sources - List of Databases
- Digital Public Library of America
- Internet Archive
- Hathi Trust Digital Library (Emergency Access)
- Library of Congress Digital Collections
- National Archives (UK)
- New York Public Library Digital Collections
Citing Primary Sources
- Find Images - explains step by step how to find images more effectively
Where to search for images:
- Student writing; give it a generous reading
- Writing an outline (web page)
- Writing an Annotated Bibliography
- Practicing research in writing studies: reflexive and ethically responsible research
- Writing Services
- Use the "How to" Guide on Chicago Citation Sytle (Notes & Bibliography)
- OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab - Chicago Manual of Style