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
- 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 guides, dictionaries, and encyclopedias to find authoritative definitions, critical perspectives of major historians and useful analyses of major works, bibliographies, etc.
- Dictionary of medieval knighthood and chivalry: people, places, and events (print)
- A dictionary of medieval terms and phrases (print)
- Dictionary of Old English corpus (online)
- Encyclopedia of society and culture in the medieval world (print)
- Historical dictionary of medieval philosophy and theology (print)
- The Late medieval age of crisis and renewal, 1300-1500; a biographical dictionary
- Materials, Methods and Masterpieces of Medieval Art (online)
- Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia (online)
- Medieval Islamic civilization : an encyclopedia
- Medieval Jewish civilization : an encyclopedia
- The New Cambridge medieval history
- Print culture and the medieval author: Chaucer, Lydgate, and their books 1473-1557 (online)
- The rise of the medieval world, 500-1300 : a biographical dictionary
- Women and gender in medieval Europe : an encyclopedia
To find books or journal articles, you have three options:
1. Use the library's main search box
- type in the keywords of your topic
- this tool searches most of the library's databases, simultaneously, for all types of material, ie: journal articles, book reviews, books/e-books, newspapers, magazines,videos, reports, etc.
- each search can return many results (much like Google), so you must use the book/ebook filters to refine your search results
- use the Advanced Search and narrow by Subject terms (controlled vocabulary)
2. Search specialized databases for History
- these databases are focused on various areas of historical research and contain citations or full text links to journal articles, books, conference proceedings, reports, and dissertations
- you will find more precise articles with fewer results to browse
Recommended databases for journal articles/books include:
- Historical Abstracts
- America, History and Life
- JSTOR - digital library of journals, books and primary sources
3. Use a search engine
- Google Scholar (via the library's web site) - is a large search engine that searches information on the web and provides links to full-text articles to which the CU Library subscribes, or to articles made freely available by the publisher. It also provides articles from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and scholarly articles posted on the web.
- Although it is easy to use and includes 'cited by' and ranking features, it does not provide full text without a library subscription and the coverage for the humanities and social sciences is uneven. There is no 'filter option' for just scholarly publications and very few options to limit or narrow your search results.
Begin with the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources web page for an 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
- Use the bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sources on your topic to help identify primary source material.
- Original documents can also be found by searching our archival collections or by contacting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) staff for help.
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
- 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.
Other libraries and collections:
- ARTstor - iIncludes approximately 500,000 images covering art, architecture and archeology
- Avalon Project (Medieval Documents 400-1399) - has digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government
- Bibliotheca Augustana - composed of e-texts of world literature in several languages
- Bibliotheca Latina Intra Text - Latin texts, 7th-16th centuries
- British History Online - digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.
- CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts - covers Irish history and culture from the Middle Ages to the Modern period in various languages
- Early English Books Online
- Internet Medieval Sourcebook
- Monumenta Germaniae Historica
- Munich Digitization Center
- The Online Medieval and Classical Library
- Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
- Biblioteca Digital Hispanica - The digital library of the Biblioteca Nacional de España. Provides access to 1000s of digitised documents, such as, books printed from the 15th to the 19th century, manuscripts, drawings, engravings, pamphlets, posters, photographs, maps, atlases, music scores, historic newspapers and magazines and audio recordings.
- Bibliotheque virtuelle des manuscrits medievaux (BVMM) - Digital library of medieval manuscripts from French libraries.
- Bodleian Library Manuscripts - Electronic catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library with descriptions and some images. Also available is a subject guide to the collections.
- British Library Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
- Cambridge Digital Library
- The Cambridge Illuminations (The Fitzwilliam Museum)
- The Cary Collection: Medieval Manuscript Leaves - Fifty-one leaves from Medieval manuscripts. Western Europe: 12th - 16th centuries.
- CHD Institute for Studies of Illuminated Manuscripts in Denmark
- Codices Electronici Sangallenses (CESG) – Virtual Library - The purpose of the “Codices Electronici Sangallenses” (Digital Abbey Library of St. Gallen) is to provide access to the medieval codices in the Abbey Library of St. Gallen by creating a virtual library. At the moment, the virtual library contains 500 manuscripts. The virtual library will be continuously updated and extended. (Dec. 2013)
- Consulting Medieval Manuscripts Online
- CORSAIR (The Morgan Library and Museum) - Gateway to one of the largest repositories of medieval images on the web with links to more than 15,000 digitized images.
- Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves - This digital facsimile provides reproductions of all 157 miniatures (and facing text pages) from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. The original one-volume prayer book had been taken apart in the nineteenth century; the leaves were shuffled and then rebound into two confusing volumes. This presentation offers the miniatures in their original, fifteenth-century sequence.
- Digital Library of Illuminated Manuscripts - Digital project containing 12th-16th C. illuminated manuscripts from several American universities. Full browsing and downloading.
- Digital Medieval Manuscripts at Houghton Library - Digital Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts representing a significant resource for the study of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Western Europe.
- Digital Scriptorium - Clearing house of digitzed medieval and renaissance manuscripts.
- Early Manuscripts at Oxford - This site provides access to over 80 early manuscripts now in institutions associated with the University of Oxford.
- e-codices: Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland
- Europeana Regia
- Free Library of Philadelphia Digital Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts - The manuscript collection includes most of the kinds of books used between 1000 and 1500 A.D.: prayer books and poetry, Bibles and political propaganda, philosophical works, and fantastic histories. Some are works of art; others are humble.
- Gutenberg Bible
- Images of Medieval Manuscripts (Bodleian Library)
- Institut de recherche et d`histoire des textes - Provides a variety of research tools, publications and links for the study of French manuscripts from antiquity to the renaissance. Research categories include iconography, paleography, codicology, musicology and Byzantine sources. In French.
- Hill Museum and Manuscript Library
- Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / National Library of Wales - Includes an online, original manuscript of Chaucer's work.
- MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations
- Mandragore (Bibliothèque nationale de France) Database of manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale with extensive images. Searchable by keyword.
- Manus Online Database containing descriptions and digital images of manuscripts, private papers and archives held by Italian public, private and ecclesiastical libraries.
- Manuscripta Mediaevalia Manuscripta mediaevalia represents more than 75,000 documents to Western manuscripts available mainly in German libraries.
- Manuscriptorium (Memoria Project)
- Manuscrits enluminés des bibliothèques de France More than 14,000 manuscript illuminations.
- Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Collection (University of Texas)
- Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts from Western Europe (New York Public Library)
- The Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages
- Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts
- Medieval Imaginations: Literature and Visual Culture in the Middle Ages - Searchable database of images illustrating connections between the literature and visual culture of medieval England.
- Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections
- Medieval Manuscripts on the Web
- Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts
- Schoyen Collection - The collection is comprised of most types of manuscripts from the whole world spanning over 5000 years. It is the largest private manuscript collection formed in the 20th century. Many images with extensive annotation.
- Scriptorium -A digital archive of manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books from c. 1450-1720, including research and teaching resources for late medieval and early modern manuscript studies.
- St. Albans Psalter
- Treasures in Full (British Library)
- Austrian Literature Online: Erlebnisraum Altes Buch - Access to 59 fully digitized medieval manuscripts from Austrian university collections.
- The Aberdeen Bestiary
- Bestiaire du Moyen Age
- Books of Beasts in the British Library: the Medieval Bestiary and its context
- The Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages
Church and Religion
- ARTFL Project - A source of classical French writings which consists of a number of searchable databases.
- Bible. Latin. Vulgate. (Gutenberg Digital)
- Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana = Vatican Library - Website of the Vatican Library. Contains links to the Archivio Segreto Vaticano and other resources including the map, Forma Urbis Romae.
- British Library Sacred Manuscripts Collection
- CEEC: Codices Electronici Esslesiae Coloniensis
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) A digital library of hundreds of classic Christian books selected for edification and education.
- Corpus Thomisticum - The complete works of Thomas Aquinas.
- Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) - Medieval stained glass in England.
- Early Church Documents
- Index of Medieval Art - A large database of medieval art.
- Internet Sacred Text Archive
- Monastic Matrix - Contains medieval documents (literature and historical records of all kinds) collected from manuscripts and printed sources.
- Myriobiblos - Patristic Texts (Greek) - E-text library of the Church of Greece.
- Patrologia Latina - Cover the works of the Latin Fathers, from Tertullian in 200 A.D. to Pope Innocent III in 1216.
- Thesaurus Precum Latinarum - Texts of Latin prayers.
- British History Online
- English Medieval Legal Documents AD 600 - AD 1535
- Henry III Fine Rolls Project
Law and Legal History
- De Re Militari - The Society for Medieval Military History.
Women in the Middle Ages
- Epistolae: Medieval Women's Letters
- Monastic Matrix: A scholarly resource for the study of women's religious communities from 400 to 1600 CE - Contains medieval documents (literature and historical records of all kinds) collected from manuscripts and printed sources.
- Atlas of medieval Britain
- Atlas of medieval Europe
- Atlas of the Medieval world
- Medieval maps of the Holy Land
- The medieval world : an illustrated atlas
- The Penguin historical atlas of the medieval world
- ARTstor - a digital library of art images. Includes approximately 500,000 images covering art, architecture and archeology
- Index of Medieval Art - a thematic and iconographic index of early Christian and medieval art objects
- Les Enluminures Medieval Art
- Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands
- Illuminating the Medieval Hunt
- Index of Medieval Art
- Index of Medieval Medical Images
- Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts (New York Public Library Digital Gallery)
Writing an annotated bibliography
Writing your essay
- writing a research paper video (overview)
- writing a thesis statement (video)
- writing an outline for your essay (web page)
Citing your sources
Referencing your sources is an important part of academic writing. Why?
- it lets you acknowledge the ideas or words of others if you use them in your work
- it helps you to avoid plagiarism
- it demonstrates that you are using the scholarly record and that you can provide authority for statements you make in your term paper
- it enables readers to find the source information
- Consult the "How to" Guide on Chicago Citation Sytle (Notes & Bibliography)
- You may also want to consult the following: Department of History Essay Writing Guide.
- Citing your sources web page
Other Writing Help
Writing Services is located on the 4th floor of the library and offers students instruction on developing an agrument, structuring ideas, writing well, etc. and is part of the Centre for Student Academic Support.
You can meet with a writing consultant during their drop-in hours on the 4th floor of the libary or book an online appointment.