Your assignments at university are an invitation to join a scholarly conversation by exploring topics in depth, formulating a unique research question, examining the research of others along with primary sources, building an argument, and drawing your own conclusions. A good research topic is one that sparks your interest and allows you to ask new questions in order to find meaningful answers. This guide is intended to help you get started.
Pick a research topic
- Read your assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Identify key concepts of your research topic
- Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- Using Wikipedia wisely (video)
Use dictionaries and handbooks to find overviews of your topic
- Hutchison Dictionary of American history
- The Oxford companion to United States history
- Reviews in American History
Search Omni, the library's main search box to easily find peer-reviewed journal articles on any topic. Remember to refine your search by selecting the following options: Peer-Reviewed Journals, Articles and Subject (optional) to obtain high quality, academic literature.
You can also search databases by subject to find journal articles. They offer many advanced search features and search results tend to be more precise.
Key Journal Article Databases:
- America History and Life (covers North America)
- Historical Abstracts (covers the world, excluding North America)
- American Memory
- American Periodicals Series Online
- American State Papers, 1789-1838
- Avalon Project
- Bibliography of British and Irish History
- Bibliography of Native North Americans
- British History Online
- C19, The Nineteenth Century index
- Google Scholar - by connecting via the databases web page you will be able to seamlessly connected to Carleton's fulltext collection of journal articles
- HAPI Online
- History of Feminism
- Periodicals Archive Online
- Readers Guide Retrospective
- Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources overview.
How to search for primary sources:
Search your topic (or historical person of interest) using 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.
- 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
- Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) staff for help. The library has many microform collections of primary sources as well. Please ask for assistance at the Research Help Desk.
Primary Sources on the web
- Digital Public Library of America
- Eighteenth Century Collections Online
- Eighteenth Century Journals
- Empire Online
- Hathi Trust Digital Library
- Library of Congress Digital Collections
- Making of America Digital Library
- New York Public Library Digital Collections
- Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
- Illinois Digital Newspapers
- New York Times Archives (1851-2005)
- Wall Street Journal (1889-1991)
- Washington Post (1877-1992)
- Times Digital Archive (1785-1992) [U.K.]
- The Guardian (1821-2003) [U.K.]
- The Observer (1791-2003) [U.K.]
- American Government and Politics
- Library of Congress Digital Collections
- U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1817-1980) with American State Papers (1789-1838)
- American Memory: Historical Collections of the National Digital Library (Library of Congress)
- ARTstor - digital library of art images. Includes approximately 500,000 images covering art, architecture and archeology.
- Digital History
- Farber Gravestone Collection (American Antiquarian Society) - The Farber Gravestone Collection is an unusual resource containing over 13,500 images documenting the sculpture on more than 9,000 gravestones, most of which were made prior to 1800, in the Northeastern part of the United States.
- Images of African Americans from the 19th Century
- JCB Image Collections (Brown University)- includes Archive of Early American Images, Maps, and Political Cartoons
- Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Catalog
- Life Magazine
- LIFE Photos
- New York Public Library Digital Gallery
- Pictures of the Civil War (National Archives)
- Picturing U.S. History
- U.S. History Images
- USC Digital Library - provides access to over 100,000 photographs, maps, manuscripts, records, texts, and sound recordings owned by USC and collaborating institutions with particular emphasis on materials related to Los Angeles and the Southern California region.
- Wellcome Images: 2000 years of human culture
- American Archive of Public Broadcasting
- Behind the veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South
- Great Depression Interviews
- Oral Histories of the American South: The Civil Rights Movement
- The Roaring Twenties - provides visitors with an intriguing interactive experience about the urban soundscape and human responses to industrial, human, and transportation noise from January to June 1930. Supporting features such as complaints, documents, official responses, articles from the New York Times, newsreels, laws and Noise Abatement Commission (NYC) responses provide context to the historic view of the soundscape.
- Studs Terkel Radio Archive
- Who Speaks for the Negro - Interviews
Kanopy - provides streaming for educational video products from the arts, humanities, health, business, education and more.
- The information-literate historian: a guide to research for history students
- Notes on writing a History Essay (History Department guidelines)
- A short guide to writing about history
- Writing History: a guide for Canadian students
- Writing the research paper (video)
African American History
The Civil War
The Cold War
Maps & Altases
- America Discovered: A Historical Atlas of North American Exploration
- Atlas of African-American History
- Atlas of Hispanic-American History
- Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States
- British Atlantic, American Frontier (Canadian-American Center)
- Civil War Maps (Library of Congress)
- David Ramsey Historical Map Collection
Historical map collection
- France in America (Library of Congress)
- Historical Atlas of Native Americans
- Historical Atlas of the United States with original maps
- The Routledge Atlas of America History
- Hotchkiss Map Collection - Confederate Army Maps (Library of Congress)
- Map Collections: 1500-2004 (Library of Congress)
A collection of digital maps from the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress.
- Map History/History of Cartography
- Mapping the African American Past (Columbia University)
- Maps etc. Early America 1400-1800