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.
- 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
- Greenwood encyclopedia of love, courtship and sexuality through history
- Human sexuality: an encyclopedia
- International encyclopedia of men and masculinities
- International encyclopedia of marriage and family
- Lesbian histories and cultures : an encyclopedia
- LGBTQ America today: an encyclopedia
- Prostitution in Great Britain, 1485-1901: an annotated bibliography
- The information-literate historian: a guide to research for history students
- Notes on writing a History Essay (History Department guidelines)
- A short guide to writing about history
- Writing History: a guide for Canadian students
- Writing the research paper (video)
- America History and Life (covers Canada and the United States)
- Historical Abstracts (covers the rest of the world)
- Gender Studies Database
- C19, The Nineteenth Century index
- Defining Gender, 1450-1910
- History of Feminism
- Periodicals Archive Online
- Project Muse
- Social Sciences Full Text
- Sociological Abstracts
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)
- Personal narrative
Other search tips:
- Use bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sources on your topic to help identify primary source material.
- Useful book: Reading primary sources: the interpretation of texts from 19th and 20th century history
- Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) staff for help. The library has many microform collections of primary sources as well. Please ask for assistance at the Research Help Desk.
- 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 your RACER account.
- 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.
- Flickr: The Commons - hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives
- The Kinsey Institute Gallery
- Films on Demand - Collection of streaming educational videos that cover a wide spectrum of disciplines. Contains both clips and full-length videos.
- Watmedia 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.
- 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.
- SexBiblio: Bibliography of the History of Western Sexuality, 1700-1945 - contains about 25.300 titles of primary and secondary literature of the history of sexuality in Europe, the U.S. and Canada from 1700 to 2007/8.
- Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality (CCHS) - gender Inn is a searchable database providing access to over 8,400 records pertaining to feminist theory, feminist literary criticism and gender studies focusing on English and American literature.
- The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction
- Studies in Scarlet: marriage and sexuality in the U.S and U.K., 1815-1914
- Homosexuality in History: A partially annotated bibliograhy
- The Men's Bibliography