Medieval History


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
  • Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia

Use guides, dictionaries, and encyclopedias to find authoritative definitions, critical perspectives of major historians and useful analyses of major works, bibliographies, etc.

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:

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.

Additional Databases: 

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)
  • Correspondence
  • Letters
  • Memoir
  • Personal narrative
  • Recollections
  • Reminiscences
  • Journal
  • Sources

 Search tips:

  • 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

Other libraries and collections:




Church and Religion


Law and Legal History

Middle English



Women in the Middle Ages



  • 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



Writing an annotated bibliography

Writing your essay

Citing your sources

Referencing your sources is an important part of academic writing. Why?

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.



Content last updated: October 17, 2019