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HI 481 - Seminar in History Research


This guide is designed to support the thesis assignment in the History research seminar. Although your individual topics may require specialized sources, the resources described below will provide an excellent gateway for your research. If you need personalized assistance with developing a search strategy or locating information, consider making an appointment with the History liaison librarian.


Background and Reference

Reference materials can provide basic background information on your topic and help you identify keywords for further searching; for example, the names of important leaders, places, or events. Some also contain topical essays that can be excellent introductions to a particular subject or time period. Many reference resources provide bibliographies at the ends of each entry or volume, which will point you to additional books and journal articles worth exploring.

In addition to the reference works listed below, there are also encyclopedias on specific events or eras. These can be found in the D and E sections of the Reference collection.


The American Economy:  A Historical Encyclopedia
     In Credo Reference

A Companion to American Thought
     Ref E169.1 .C685

Dictionary of American History
     Ref E174 .D52 (print version)

Encyclopedia of African-American History, 1619–1895
     Ref E185 .E545

Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present
     In Oxford Reference Online

Encyclopedia of American Economic History
     Ref HC103 .E52

Encyclopedia of American Immigration
     Ref JV6465 .E53

Encyclopedia of American Political History
     Ref E183 .E5

Encyclopedia of American Social History
     Ref HN57 .E58

Encyclopedia of American Social Movements
     Ref HN57 .E594

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism
     Ref E184 .A1 E58

Encyclopedia of the American Military
     Ref UA23 .E56

Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies
     Ref E45 .E53

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century
     Ref E169.1 E626

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century
     Ref E740.7 .E53

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life in America
     In Gale Virtual Reference Library

Handbook of North American Indians
     Ref E77 .H25

Oxford Reference Online:  History
This online collection enables you to conduct keyword searching on many of Oxford's reference works in the field of history.


African American National Biography
     Ref E185.96 .A4466

American National Biography
     Ref CT213 .A68

Dictionary of American Biography
     Ref E176 .D564

Notable American Women
     Ref CT3260 .N57


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Geisel Library catalog
To locate books, try both Keyword and Subject searching in the library catalog. Start by doing keyword searching on various aspects of your topic. When you find useful books, click on the Subject Headings in their catalog records to identify additional books on the same topic.  Once you find the call number range of books on your topic, go to that location in the shelves and browsing the indexes of books to find mentions of specific people or events of interest.

By searching WorldCat, you can identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use within 7–10 days. The best approach is to perform Subject searches on the same Subject Headings that you discovered in the Geisel Library catalog. You can supplement this with Keyword searching on keywords pertaining to your topic.  When you identify a relevant book in WorldCat, you can click on the "Request via Interlibrary Loan" link in its WorldCat record. 


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As with the book catalogs, search the journal databases using keywords related to your topic, combining concepts together using the Boolean AND and OR operators. Once you find relevant articles, examine the subject headings that have been assigned to them and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem most potentially fruitful. Be sure to read the bibliographies of articles to identify additional sources worth tracking down.

If there is no link to the full text of the article, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Within a week, you should receive an email indicating that the article is available to access.

Journal Articles

America:  History and Life
The best place to start.  Search this database to locate abstracts to journal articles and books focusing on United States and Canadian history and culture.  Use the Historical Period From/To limiter to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from important history journals. Most journals are available from the beginning of publication to within 3–5 years of the current issue.

Academic Search Premier
This multi-disciplinary database offers scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles on a wide range of topics.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index
This index provides citations and abstracts to more than 1,300 of the most significant journals in the arts and humanities.

Google Scholar
Use the Google interface to search for scholarly articles, books, and conference papers.  Only a fraction of the material is available in full text, but you can use WebBridge to place ILL requests for items that you find.

Historical Abstracts
Search here for journal articles on topics related to non-U.S. history from 1450 to the present. Use the Historical Period From/To limiter to specify your time period of interest.

History Cooperative
This resource offers full-text articles from several key journals and conference proceedings related to American history. Most, but not all, titles are accessible in full-text.

Historical News Articles

Early American Newspapers 1690–1876
This text-searchable database has cover-to-cover reproductions of hundreds of historic American newspapers.

New York Times — Historical
This database provides full-text access to every page of the New York Times, from 1851 to 2003. Articles written at the time of historical events can be regarded as primary source material.

Readers' Guide Retrospective
Find citations to popular magazine articles from the period 1890–1982. A great source for researching firsthand perspectives on 20th century American history.


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Primary Sources in Print

Primary sources such as diaries, letters, government documents, and old newspaper articles are invaluable for providing a first-person perspective on events and people from the past. To learn more about how to tap into these resources, see the guide on Finding and Using Primary Source Documents.

To locate primary source collections in our online catalog, combine keyword searches on your topic with words such as sources, memoirs, diaries, correspondence, letters, papers, personal narratives, or pictorial works. These words will typically appear in the subject headings of primary sources.  After finding materials at Geisel Library, extend your search to other libraries by conducting similar searches in WorldCat.  Unless they are rare or valuable, primary source materials can generally be obtained from other libraries via ILL. 


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Primary Sources on the Web

The following websites offer primary-source material relevant to American history. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your topic in a search engine such as Google.

American Journeys
A collection of eyewitness accounts of early American exploration and settlement, from sagas of Vikings in Canada to diaries of mountain men in the Rockies.

American Memory (Library of Congress)
A repository of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures and text. You can search the individual collections by keyword or browse by topic. Particularly noteworthy is A Century of Lawmaking (Congressional documents for 1774–1875).

American Presidency Project
An impressive collection of presidential documents, including the text of press conferences, executive orders, state of the union addresses, and the Public Papers of the Presidents.

American Slave Narratives
Read the complete interviews of thousands of former slaves, collected here; they are browseable and searchable by topic, names, place, or year of birth.

Avalon Project (Yale University)
Thousands of primary-source documents in the areas of law, history and diplomacy. Documents are organized into collections by century and topic.

Cold War International History Project
This digital collection contains a Virtual Archive of primary documents, organized thematically into collections such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and US-Soviet Relations. It includes memoranda, letters, and government reports.

Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina)
A collection of digitized primary materials that offer insight into Southern U.S. history and culture, including oral histories, letters, slave narratives, and government documents.

Foreign Relations of the United States (1861–1960)
Foreign Relations of the United States (1960–1976)
The Foreign Relations of the United States series is the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions that have been declassified and edited for publication.

Google Books
Google has digitized several million books and made them accessible through their search engine. Most items published before 1922 can be read in their entirety, making this website a great resource for older primary source material.

Immigration to the United States, 1789–1930 (Harvard University)
This digital collection portrays the immigrant experience through a large number of online books, photographs, diaries, and journals.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook
Primary source texts arranged by country, period and topic for easy browsing. Use the left-side menu to find collections on subjects like "American Independence" and "US Power".

Making of America (Cornell University)
Making of America (University of Michigan)
These two digital libraries provide access to thousands of books and journal articles related to American social history, published during the 19th century.

National Security Archive
Access online versions of declassified U.S. government documents grouped by subjects such as nuclear history, China and East Asia, and the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.

Voice of the Shuttle:  History Resources
An enormous listing of online history resources organized by country and time period. Click on "U.S." in the right-side menu to find a chronological listing of US history-related web resources.

Women Working, 1800–1930 (Harvard University)
A collection of manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and photographs that shed light on women's role in the workforce during this period of American history. 


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Citing Sources

For assistance with formatting your citations in Chicago style, consult the University of Wisconsin's online guide or ask for the Chicago Manual of Style (Ready Ref Z253 .U69) at the library's reference desk.

You may want to use EndNote to help you store your citations and generate footnotes and bibliographies for your final paper.  You can get a copy of EndNote from the IT Help Desk.  For help with getting started, see our user guide and guide to exporting citations from library databases into EndNote.


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