How to choose an essay topic

Explore your topic

Introducing Summon - which makes it possible to search across many of the library's collections simultaneously. Including books, ebooks, journal titles, games, music, videos, government information, maps, and more.

However,  Summon doesn't search everything that the library owns or subscribes to so you will still need to search other resources to find everything that you need. Summon also doesn't let you do sophisticated searches that you may be used to doing in specific databases or the library catalogue.  

When to use Summon

  • When starting research on a topic
  • If you are not sure which databases to use

For assistance using Summon please contact the Research Help Desk.

Reference Materials: 

Use reference materials to get started on your research. These can be found in the Reference area of the library, main floor behind the Research Help Desk.

Finding primary sources in the library collection

Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) website.

Reproductions can be found by checking the library catalogue.

Use specific words to locate primary sources in the Library catalogue, such as: correspondence, sources, diaries, letters, personal naratives. KEYWORD search examples:

  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:correspondence
  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:diaries
  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:letters
  • [KEYWORD] and s:sources

Key Sources of Primary Sources for Canadian History

Huge microfiche reproductions collection from the time of the first European settlers to the 1920s. Items can be searched in the Library Catalogue by entering relevant KEYWORDS and adding and CIHM to the search.



Early Alberta Newspapers.


Finding primary sources on the Internet

Custom Google Search for Canadian Primary Sources

Government Information

The Government Documents collection contains over 1.2 million items and is an especially strong repository of Canadian primary source material.

You will find the most important government documents for historical research, such as the Debates of the House of Commons of Canada, Royal Commissions, and the Census of Canada. You will also find historical sheet maps and atlases from around the world, and a full range of statistical publications to help provide historical context.

See also: Government Information Subject Guide



Over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian advertisements covering five product categories - Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II propaganda - dated between 1911 and 1955.


Collection of streaming educational videos that cover a wide spectrum of disciplines. Contains both clips and full-length videos.

For video material at the Carleton Univeristy library, do a KEYWORD search in the library catalogue and limit "Material Type" to FILM/VIDEO. If you cannot find what you need search the following database:

If you wish to borrow a video listed in Watmedia please fill out our Interfilm Video Request form - do not submit requests directly to Watmedia.

Other Places to look for Videos

Other Media

Oral histories

This Memory Project website provides Second World War veterans with the opportunity to share their memories through oral interviews and digitized artefacts and memorabilia.

General Gateways



Special Topics

Crime and Law

First Nations


Labour History

Photographic exhibition.

Local History and Genealogy (see also Immigration)

Military Studies

Politics and Government

Women's History

The ViVa database provides citations to over 8,000 articles on the subject of women's and gender history published between 1975 and 2004 in historical and women's studies journals.

Content last updated: October 5, 2018