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.

Pick a research topic

  • Read your assignment and instructions carefully
  • Try to pick a 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 dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks to find definitions, introductions and overviews of your topic

Consult writing guides for help

Finding primary sources in the library collection

   1. Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) website.
   2. Reproductions can be found by checking the library catalogue.

Use specific words to locate primary sourcees 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

In the library's electronic and microform collections

The library has many online and microform collections of primary sources, including newspapers.  See the various country-specific Subject Guides for more information.


Centre for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
A great institution to check for historical documents, newspapers, journals, archives and other sources. "The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium 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 interlibrary loan and electronic delivery." Carleton University Library is a mermber of CRL.

Government Information

The Government Documents collection contains over 1.3 million items.  The strongest collection areas are: Canadian Federal, Canadian Provincial, Intergovernmental International Organizations and European Union publications.

Be sure to check out their Google Custom Search Engine for government specific searches in Canada / United States / Africa /Asia and the Pacific / Caribbean and Latin America /Middle East / Intergovernmental Organizations

Maps & GIS



Historical GIS (HGIS) is relatively new but increasing in prevalence through its use of geographical analysis in historical contexts. 

A handful of HGIS Examples

Overviews and Selected Resources

Trying it out

While HGIS work can seem intimidating, it is possible to add a custom map to your project or even do geographic analysis of historical events as your project itself. 



Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.


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.

Free online documentaries


Content last updated: December 20, 2018