Your assignments at university are an invitation to join a scholarly conversation by exploring topics in depth, weighing the evidence, and drawing your own conclusions.  A good research topic is one that sparks your interest and allows you to ask new questions. This guide is intended to help you get started.

Pick a research topic

  • Read your assignment instructions carefully
  • Pick a research topic that interests you and meets the assignment criteria
  • Identify the key concepts of your research topic
  • Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia

Use guides, dictionaries, and encyclopedias to find authoritative definitions, critical perspectives of major historians and useful bibliographies.

Writing Guides

Research Methods and Theory

  • Sage Research Methods is designed to support researchers with writing a research question, choosing a method, gathering, analyzing data, and writing up & publishing the findings.
    • Tip: Browse by discipline, look for 'History' to find a number of handbooks and case studies.

Books on theory and method

  • A practical guide to studying history; skills and approaches, D16.P685 2017, Floor 5
  • Debating new approaches to history, D13.D389 2019, Floor 5
  • Historical Theory
  • The Routledge companion to historical studies (ebook)
  • ​History of oral history : foundations and methodology, D16.14.H63 2007, Floor 5
  • Research Methods for history, D16.R37 2012, Floor 5

Begin with the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources overview.

Searching 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)
  • Correspondence
  • Letters
  • Memoir
  • Personal narrative
  • Recollections
  • Reminiscences
  • Journal
  • Sources

 Other search tips:

Historical Newspaper Databases

Primary Sources on the web

Other libraries with significant primary source collections:

  • Center for Research Libraries (CRL) - Carleton University Library is a member of the CRL consortium. It regularly acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through your RACER account.


Government Information

Use the Google Custom Search tool for government information searches in Canada / United States /Asia and the Pacific / Latin America and the Caribbean/ Africa and Middle East / Europe and the European Union.


Historical GIS sources:

Other selected resources related to GIS:



Content last updated: December 10, 2019