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Research Guide: History 4990:  Senior Seminar



Getting Started

Stewart Library owns or has access to a large number of resources to help in your research. 

If you're not sure of a topic or need some background information, reference sources can be very helpful.  They are also often easy places to find references to primary sources.  Reference sources are also good places to find statistics.   Some good ones to start with are:


Online Dictionaries & Encyclopedias from Credo (formerly xreferplus), including: Dictionary of Contemporary History, Concise Atlas of World History, The Great American History Factfinder, Who's Who in the Roman World and many more.

Requires WSU ID
Online Dictionaries & Encyclopedias from Oxford Reference Online, including:   The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology, The Kings & Queens of Britain, The Oxford Dictionary of Local & Family History, Who's Who in the Twentieth Century and many more. Requires WSU ID
The Gale Digital Reference Shelf.  Includes:  Encyclopedia of American Religions , Encyclopedia of Clothing & Fashion, Encyclopedia of Food and Culture , Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World , Encyclopedia of Modern Asia , Encyclopedia of World Biography
Requires WSU ID
The Oxford Digital Reference Collection.  Includes: Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages , Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium , Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt , Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America , Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation , Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance , Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History , Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States Requires WSU ID
The Sage eReference Collection.  Includes titles such as: Encyclopedia of American Urban History, Encyclopedia of Immigration and Migration in the American West, Encyclopedia of Women in the American West.  
Historical Statistics of the United States - Millennial Edition Requires WSU ID
AccessScience   For articles on the history of science Requires WSU ID
West's Encyclopedia of American Law Good historical coverage Requires WSU ID
Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation REF   BR 302.8 .O93
Dictionary of the History of Ideas REF   CB 5 .D52 9973
Encyclopedia of Archaeology REF   CC 100 .E54 2001
Historiography:  An Annotated Bibliography  of Journal Articles, Books & Dissertations REF   D 13 .H5 1987
Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing REF   D 14 .E53 1999
AHA Guide to Historical Literature REF   D 20 .A4 1995
Dictionary of the Middle Ages REF   D 114 .D5 1982
Oxford Companion to World War II REF   D 740 .094
Victorian Britain REF   DA 550 .V53 1988
Oxford Classical Dictionary REF   DE 5 .O9 1996
Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World REF   DS 35.53 .O9 1995
Encyclopedia Judaica REF   DS 102.8 .E496 1978
Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture REF   DS 33 .C63 2000
Encyclopedia of African History & Culture REF   DT 3 P27  2001
Native Americans REF   E 77 .P89 1998
Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States REF   E 184 .S75 H365 1993
Utah:  a Centennial History REF   F 626 .S8
Encyclopedia of Latin American Culture and History REF   F 1406 .K53 1996
International historical statistics : Europe, 1750-2000 REF   HA 1107.M5 2003
Encyclopedia of Scientific Biography REF   Q141 .D5
Cambridge World History of Human Disease REF   R131.C233 1993
Combined Retrospective Index to Journals in History 1838-1974. REF   Z 6205 .C18
American Decades, American Eras, World Eras , and the 20th Century Day by Day - These are chronologies and timelines with pictures.  REF Index Table 2B
American Historical Images on File REF - call numbers vary, check catalog.


You can find many other reference books on historical topics  by browsing the following call number areas:  

 C     the auxiliary sciences of history  (archaeology, chronology, biography, etc.)

 D    General history and outside the Americas (Wars, Europe, Asia, Gypsies, etc.)

 E     United States History (includes Native Americans, African Americans, etc.)

 F    U.S. Local history (states, cities, regions) and the Americas outside of the U.S. (Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean)

You can also find historical works in many other areas.  For example, economic history is in the H's,  the history of Medicine is in R, Diplomatic history is often in the J area (political science).

Books, journal articles and websites can also provide good background information.  See sections below for information on how to find them.



Primary Sources

Primary sources are the basic building blocks of historical research.  Common primary sources include:

Journals, diaries, letters



Oral Histories




They may also include:

Photographs, video recordings in various formats

Audio recordings in various formats

Objects or artifacts:  art, tools, clothing, roads, buildings, houses, pottery, books & manuscripts

And in some cases:





Some of these sources have been adapted, photographed, translated, etc. and are available in books and on the web.

Others are available only in one location and you must travel to use them.

If you aren't comfortable working with various types of primary (and secondary) sources, check out these excellent guides:


Finding Primary Sources on the Web:

1.  Use a Search Engine

This works best for specific documents with easy to search titles: 

US Constitution

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Treaty of Versailles

Kyoto Protocol

Constitution of Athens (Aristotle)

You can also often use a search engine to find specialized local collections available on the web - or at least to find where they're kept.

For example:  a Google search on Utah diaries pulls up links to several collections - some web accessible, some available at BYU and other Utah schools.

Search engines work best for English language (and translated) sources.  If you want sources in a foreign language, you need to search in that language.  You might also want to try a search engine specific to that language.


For example:  to find letters written by Napoleon to Josephine, search:  napoleon lettres josephine

For more political letters try Napoleon lettres relations extérieures.

Try different search engines.  They all produce slightly different results.   Pick one or two and learn to use them well.  I like  Other good search engines to try are: and    Be sure to try the Advanced Search features on each one - and remember:  evaluate, evaluate, evaluate!

See my Quick Guide to Web Searching .

Learn how to Google like a pro:  A Scholarly Guide to Google  from Widener Library, Harvard.  For more than you probably ever wanted to know about Google:  The Google Guide by Nancy Blachman.


2.  Use a Special Directory


"The Hidden Web"  (also called deep or invisible web) consists of sites that search engines can't find, usually due to the type of files they contain, such as PDF and database files.  Many of these sites are very useful.  The best way to find them is to use directory listings.  The sites listed below all list Hidden Web sites of use to historians.  Other good general directories include:  Librarian's Index to the Internet , and The Internet Public Library, as well as the directory features of Google and Yahoo.  Search engines such as Google are just beginning to search some of these sites. 

The WWW-VL  History Central Catalog  - The WWW Virtual Libraries were among the first resources guides on the web and are still among the best.  From Argentina  to Yemen, from  Finding Aids to Scholarly Exchange, this is the place to begin. 

The Internet History Source Books  - These are excellent places  to begin looking for history sites on the web.  Quality does vary, but overall excellent.  They do have problems with keeping links updated, but it's usually easy to take the source information and do a Google search to find new links.

Best of History Sites  is an award winning portal to the best history sites on the net.  Provides a list of sites and search engines that provide access to "hidden web" sites, which are often useful to historians.  Also links to sites about lesson plans and teaching with technology. 

History Matters is a good site for U.S. history, especially for teachers.

Internet for Historians - tutorials and websites from the Humanities Computing Unit at Oxford University.  Also check out Intute: Arts and Humanities - websites with reviews.

American Cultural Guides from the Kingwood College Library - 19th Century & 20th Century - there's a guide for each decade - excellent place to find all kinds of information.   Some links provide information about primary sources.  Best for popular culture.

The PBS website can be a good place to find background information and sometimes primary sources or a bibliography listing them.  For example:  African American WorldMarie Antoinette & the French RevolutionFrom Jesus to Christ:  The First Christians.


Sites that specialize in providing primary sources or links to them:

American Memory  from the Library of Congress.  Check out other Library of Congress Collections such as Historic Newspapers and the American Folklife Center

Utah American Indian Digital Archive

Utah Digital Newspapers

Historical Census Browser from the University of Virginia Library

University of Michigan Library Documents Center (US & Foreign)

Avalon Project  from Yale University 

Perseus Digital Library from Tufts University

EuroDocs from BYU

Etext Collection  from the University of Virginia (subject index)

Making of America from University of Michigan

Christian Classic Ethereal Library

New York Times Archives - free:  1851 - 1922 ( for articles from 1923-1981, get the information and look the article up on microfilm or pay for it online.



Sites that provide non-text primary sources or links to them:


Ad*Access - advertisements from 1911-1955 from Duke University

The Robert Opie Collection - British advertising and nostalgia

Library of Congress - Collection Finder - Use this specialized search engine to gain access to many government photographic collections.

The ImageBase  from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Bridgman Art Library Archive .  Part of Credo (XReferPlus) (WSU library database)

AICT (Art Images for College Teaching) - image exchange resource for the educational community

Life Magazine Classic Pictures - online database of pictures from Life Magazine.

America in the 1930's from the University of Virginia

The Robert Johnson Notebooks (Blues)

Dismuke's Virtual Talking Machine    (Vintage Phonograph Recordings, 1900-1939)

British Pathé Archives   (Newsreels)

Vanderbilt University's Television News Archives

Prelinger Archive (Ephemeral films)

American Rhetoric (Online Speech Bank)

American Rhetoric Michael Eidenmuller, UT Tyler

History Channel Speech Archives (most are excerpts)

American Folklife Center from the Library of Congress

Fortunoff Video Archive of Holocaust Testimonies from Yale University

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the University of Utah


3.  Use a Specialty Search Engine:

Google News Archive Search - a handy way to search news archives from multiple sources.  Some are free, others are fee based.  Fee based articles may be available through other WSU library databases or via ILL.  Also provides a nifty timeline.  Good way to track changes over time.  Some coverage may go back several hundred years.

Google U.S. Government Search - search for information provided by U.S. government entities.

Google Earth  - Satellite images - requires a free software download.  (Not all are free)

Image searching:  Google and Bing lhave good image searches.

Audio/video searching: try Google  and  Bing for image and video searching, try PAV (Play Audio Video) for all. 


Finding Primary Sources in Books

Use a Library Catalog.  See Finding Books  under Secondary Sources. 


Finding Primary Sources in Archives & Special Collections

1.  Ask an expert in the field - a professor, Special Collections curator or librarian.

2.  Check the bibliography of a book on the subject.

3.  Do a web search - many libraries list important collections on their websites.

4.  Use a bibliography (book or web or literature review) on your topic.


Evaluating Primary Sources found on Websites or in Books

Unless you are dealing with an actual primary source, such as letters or manuscripts, the source you use may have been adapted to a new format, edited or otherwise manipulated.  You need to consider these changes when you use the source.

Things to consider:


1.  Who is responsible for the changes?  An expert in the field?  An interested amateur?  A group with a bias?

2.  What kinds of changes were made?  Is there an exact scan of the original?  A transcription?  A translation?  A black and white photograph of a colored object?  A outline drawing of an archaeological site?

3.  Do others use, applaud and agree with the version you're looking at?  Can you find reviews?  Are they positive or negative? 

4.  Does the editor/adapter clearly show/discuss any changes made?  Is there a critical apparatus?


For other things to consider, check out our general evaluation guide.



Secondary Sources

Finding Books:  

Use the WSU online catalog   to find what books and other materials, such as videos,  the Library owns.  The catalog will provide the location and availability of the resource. 

WorldCat  (on & off campus)   is a patron accessible version of the OCLC Online Union Catalog, which we use to borrow books from other libraries.  It contains more than 35 million records describing items owned by libraries around the world; each record contains library holdings. ~1000 A.D.-present. 

Also check out (Note:  because of the type of access we have, you will only find partial WSU holdings if you use off-campus.)

We also have a subscription to Netlibrary , which provides access to electronic books.  All Netlibrary books are listed in the WSU online catalog.

National Union Catalog:  A union catalog combines the holdings of many different libraries.  WorldCat is the electronic version of a national union catalog.  However, many large research libraries have not yet converted the records of all of their older holdings into electronic format.  Books not converted include many of historical interest.  To find these, you must use the National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints (Also known as NUC).  It is available in microfiche and print format.  Stewart Library does not own a copy.   The University of Utah is the closest place that owns it.    See the guide from Roesch Library , University of Dayton for more information.


Finding Articles:  

The best way to find articles is to use one of the Library's article databases.   These databases provide references to articles in journals, magazines & newspapers.  In many cases, the actual article is available on the computer.

Our  databases are available from home or work.  Just click on the link and enter your W number when prompted.  Don't know your W number?  Directions for finding them are available on our Connecting from Home  page.

NOTE:  If you can't find information on your topic in these databases, there are two likely possibilities:

1.) you need to try different search terms or enter them differently 

2.)  most of the research on that topic predates database coverage and you will need to use print resources.

Useful databases for most historical research  include:

  • Academic Search Premier   is a general database that allows you to search important journals in many fields, including all areas of history.  It has many full-text articles and is a good place to begin your research.  
  • America: History and Life   Indexes scholarly literature on the history and culture of the United States and Canada. 1964-Present.
  • Historical Abstracts   We no longer have open online access to Historical Abstracts.  For the print abstracts, 1955 - 1994, see D1.H6736 on the second floor, or talk to Kathy Payne about a mediated online search.
  • Reader's Guide Retrospective  - Reader's Guide from  1890 - 1982.  Search general and news magazines using current or original subject headings.  For information after 1982, use Academic Search Premier.
  • Lexis/Nexis Universe   Full-text coverage of many news, legal, and business resources. Dates of coverage vary, many update daily. 
  • CIS Congressional Universe  The world's most comprehensive access to U.S. legislative information. Includes full-text of proposed legislation and status, legislative histories, congressional committee information, campaign contributions and PAC activities, articles from "National Journal" and more. 
  • Military and Government Collection  Provides fulltext for over 430 military and government related periodicals and general interest magazines. 
  • Ethnic NewsWatch    Full text  articles from minority and ethnic newspapers, magazines, and journals in English and Spanish. 1960-present.
  • GenderWatch Full text  Newspaper, magazine, and journal articles addressing the impact of gender in society.  1990-Present (with selected articles from the 1970's and 1980's)
  • Contemporary Women's Issues (CWI) Citations and selected fulltext from articles about contemporary women's issues on health and human rights. 1992 to present.
  • Religion and Philosophy Collection Citations and selected fulltext on topics such as world religions, major denominations, biblical studies, religious history, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of language, moral philosophy and the history of philosophy.
  • Books in Print with Book Reviews  Features more than 350,000 full text reviews from nine leading sources and consists of bibliographic records from over 46,000 publishers. Also includes Books Out of Print.
  • MLA Bibliography  a good place to look for information on mythology and folklore, though mostly from a literary perspective. 


  • Google Scholar - this is a good place to find "gray" literature such as conference proceedings and also articles on topics not covered by library databases.  The cited reference feature is an easy way to expand your bibliography.  Check out my Quick Guide to Web Searching to see how to link to ejournals available at WSU.

Ejournals  is a database of all the full-text journals, magazines and newspapers that are available to WSU library patrons in all of our different databases.  You can search the name of the journal by title or title keyword to get a link to the resource.  You can NOT do a subject search for articles.

NOW:  we now have a service called Article Access - look for a link on most library databases that says Find Full-text - it will link you directly to the Ejournals database record for that article.

Ancient & Medieval History:

Ancient & Medieval History:  many of the more general databases listed above will cover some ancient & medieval history.  However, for more specific information, you will need to use print indexes and abstracts.  The good news is that are many excellent resources available on the internet, including primary sources.

  • L'Annee Philologique  -  this is "the" bibliography for  Greece & Rome and their neighbors.  It comes out annually, but runs several years behind.  Entries in French, English and a variety of other languages.  Focus is predominantly Classical, but also some earlier and later coverage.  We no longer have university access.  Check with Kathy Payne for access options.
  • Medieval  - there are a number of specialized medieval indices, many in French and some in Latin.  If you read German, try:  Regesta Imperii.  If you can't find what you need in the databases listed above, please contact me (Kathy Payne) and we'll figure out  what's best for your subject.  For a comprehensive research paper, expect to have to travel to another library or use a lot of Interlibrary Loan.  For a shorter paper try using Academic Search Premier and JSTOR

We have several databases that provide access to full-text history journals.  The most important for history are:


  • JSTOR  A group of fulltext journals in general science, history, economics, ecology, literature, mathematics, political science, and population studies. Dates of coverage vary.  This is an archival database.  It does NOT cover the  most recent 3-5 years, back issues only. (There are a few, rare, exceptions.)
  • Project Muse Full-text journals in many fields  
  • Sage Journals online SAGE Journals Online provides full text access to 450 SAGE journal titles in the social sciences, humanities, medicine, engineering, and physical and life sciences, with backfiles to 1999.
  • History Cooperative A nonprofit humanities resource offering top-level online history scholarship.

If you are doing research on history  in a specific field, such as medicine, science, theater, business, and so on,  it can be helpful to look in a database specific to that field.  For example:  to research medical history,   look in a medical database, to research theater history  look in a performing arts database.  Ask a librarian to help determine which database is best for your topic.


Browsing Current  Periodicals: 


You can also browse through journals and magazines.  This can be helpful when you're looking for a topic.  Current issues are on the 1st floor south, older volumes on the 2nd floor.  Use the call number areas listed under books.   For example:

  • D 1        General History 
  • DS 1      Asian Studies
  • E  1       American History

Interlibrary Loan:

If we do not own a particular book or article you need, we will borrow it for you from another library through Interlibrary Loan

In general, libraries do not loan materials from Archives and Special Collections.  They will sometimes make copies.  To do this, go to the home page of the Special Collections department of the library in question and see if they list what they will provide.  If not, try email or a phone call.

Research Tips

UpSeptember 7, 2010 ndDate --> . Please send comments to Kathy Payne, Head of Reference
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