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 research topic that interests you and meets the assignment criteria
- Identify the key concepts of your research topic
- If you need extra help, click on Choosing an essay topic
- Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- Using Wikipedia wisely (video)
Use dictionaries and encyclopedias to find authoritative definitions, critical perspectives of major historians and useful bibliographies.
- The dictionary of homophobia: a global history of gay and lesbian experience
- Encyclopedia of gender and society
- Encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history in America
- Gay histories and cultures: an encyclopedia
- International encyclopedia of men and masculinities
- Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Culture
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).
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.
Recommended databases for History:
- America History and Life (covers Canada and the United States)
- Historical Abstracts (covers the world, except Canada and the United States)
- American Periodicals Series Online
- Bibliography of British and Irish History
- Bibliography of Native of Native North Americans
- Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database (previously CBCA Complete)
- CPI-Q (Canadian)
- HAPI Online (Latin American)
- History of Feminism
- Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages & Renaissance
- International Medieval Bibliography
- JSTOR (multi-disciplinary)
- Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (Britain and Colonies)
- Peels Prairie Provinces (Canada)
- Periodicals Archive Online
- Periodicals Index Online
- Readers' Guide Retrospective
- Web of Science Core Collection (multi-disciplinary)
- Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900
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)
- 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.
- Globe and Mail: Canada's Heritage from 1844
- The New York Times Archives (1851-2007)
- The Wall Street Journal (1889-1993)
- Washington Post (1877-1994)
- The Guardian (1821-2003)
- The Illustrated London News Historical Archive (1842-2003)
- The Observer (1791-2003)
- Times Digital Archive (1785-1985) - The Times of London
Primary Sources on the web
- Archives and Primary Sources Databases
- Digital Public Library of America
- Internet Archive
- Hathi Trust Digital Library
- Library of Congress Digital Collections
- National Archives (UK)
- New York Public Library Digital Collections
- RUSA Primary Sources on the web guide
- C19: the Nineteenth Century index
- Defining Gender 1450-1910
- Canadiana Online
- Empire Online
- Periodicals Archive Online
Other libraries and web sources 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 RACER.
- LAGNA / Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive - The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA) houses over 200,000 cuttings taken from the non-gay press on all LGBT matters since the late Nineteenth Century.
- Frameline - Frameline’s mission is to strengthen the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and further its visibility by supporting and promoting a broad array of cultural representations and artistic expression in film, video and other media arts.
- SexSmartFilms - Sex education and sexual health videos.