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

Writing Guides

Key Databases: 

Additional Databases: 

Newspaper Databases:


Begin with the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources web guide for an overview.

Print primary sources:

A search on your topic or person using the library's main search box can reveal a number of 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

Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) staff for help. The library has many microform collections of primary sources as well. Please ask for assistance at the Research Help Desk.

Historical Databases with primary sources

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 document 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: March 29, 2019