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HI 481 - Seminar in History Research


This guide is designed to support the thesis assignment in the History senior 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 a reference 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. Check for the books in our library catalog or in WorldCat, and use Journal Finder to see if the journals are available electronically or in print.

In addition to the broad-reaching reference works listed below, there are also encyclopedias on specific events or eras such as the American Revolution, American Civil War, World War One, the Gilded Age, and the Cold War. These can be found in the D and E sections of the Reference collection.

American National Biography
     Ref CT213 .A68 (24 vols.)

A Companion to American Thought
     Ref E169.1 .C685

Dictionary of American History
     Ref E174 .D52 (10 vols.)

Dictionary of American Biography
     Ref E176 .D564 (22 vols.)

Encyclopedia of African-American History, 1619-1895
     Ref E185 .E545 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of American Economic History
     Ref HC103 .E52 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy
     Ref JX 1407 .E53 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of American Political History
     Ref E183 .E5 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of American Social History
     Ref HN57 .E58 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of American Social Movements
     Ref HN57 .E594 (4 vols.)

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism
     Ref E184 .A1 E58 (6 vols.)

Encyclopedia of the American Military
     Ref UA23 .E56 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies
     Ref E45 .E53 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century
     Ref E169.1 .E626 (3 vols.)

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century
     Ref E740.7 .E53 (3 vols.)

Handbook of North American Indians
     Ref E77 .H25 (17 vols.)

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, including the Oxford Companion to United States History and the Oxford Companion to American Military History.


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Find Books

To find relevant books, you will probably want to try a combination of Subject and Keyword searching in the Geisel Library catalog. Start by doing keyword searching on various aspects of your topic. Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root; for example, diploma* will catch books with the words "diplomacy" or "diplomatic" in the catalog record. Use the Boolean AND to combine together multiple concepts, and use the Boolean OR to expand your search with synonyms and related terms; for example, (Native American* OR Indian*) AND (school* OR educat*). When you find useful books, click on the Subject Headings in their catalog records to identify additional books on the same topic.

Next, broaden your search beyond Geisel Library by doing keyword and subject searching in WorldCat, an online catalog encompassing the holdings of thousands of libraries worldwide. The best approach is to perform Subject searches on the same Subject Headings that you discovered in the Geisel Library catalog. You should supplement this with Keyword searching on keywords pertaining to your topic.

When you identify a relevant book in WorldCat, use our Interlibrary Loan service to have it delivered to Geisel Library for your use. Inside most WorldCat book records is a "Request ILL" link. Click on this link, input your name and contact information (including the S number on your student ID), and press the Submit button. The book will be available at our circulation desk within 1-2 weeks. You will be emailed when it arrives, and you can check it out for a specified borrowing period.


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Find Articles

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 (when present) 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
Use this database to locate abstracts to journal articles, book/media reviews, and dissertations focusing on United States and Canadian history and culture from prehistoric times to the present. This is the best place to begin searching. Be sure to use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from major journals in the humanities and social sciences, including a number of important history journals. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue.

Academic Search Premier
A broad index providing abstracts and some full-text of scholarly and popular journals for a range of academic areas, including history.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index  (AHSearch)
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals, which include articles, bibliographies, editorials, letters, and reviews. Watch for the Saint Anselm College label in your search results, indicating that the journal is available at Geisel Library.

Google Scholar
Google Scholar applies the well-known Google search engine to a growing database of scholarly literature. Although it indexes a wide range of formats, including articles, books, and conference papers, only a fraction of the material is available in full text. It is worth searching as a supplement to the journal databases, and you can use WebBridge to place ILL requests for items that you find.

History Cooperative
This resource for historical research 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 Newspaper 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.


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Find 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. Historians consult primary sources to gain insight into the prevailing culture of a time period, tabulate statistics, learn the behind-the-scenes motivations of particular government policies, and read the firsthand impressions of people as they make history. To learn more about how to tap into these resources, see the guide on Finding and Using Primary Source Documents.

Geisel Library owns numerous collections of primary source material about the people and events that comprise American history. To locate these books 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 extremely rare or valuable, primary source materials can generally be obtained from other libraries via ILL. Use the "Request ILL" link in the item's WorldCat record.


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Find 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, but be sure to look for indications that the site's information is authoritative, objective and reliable. See our guidelines on Evaluating Website Resources.

AMDOCS - Documents for the Study of American History
Important documents (mostly produced by the US government) from 1492 through the present, including treaties, Supreme Court decisions, major legislation, and the text of Roosevelt's Fireside Chats, among many other items.

American Journeys
This is a collection of eyewitness accounts of early American exploration and settlement, with more than 18,000 pages of text, from sagas of Vikings in Canada to diaries of mountain men in the Rockies.

American Memory
From the Library of Congress, the American Memory project is a collection of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures and text from the Library of Congress and other institutions. There are over 100 collections included in the project, which can either be searched with keywords or browsed 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, and state of the union addresses. Most significant is its searchable and browseable database of the Public Papers of the Presidents, whose coverage extends from the present back through President Hoover.

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. Also at this site is more information about the WPA Federal Writers Project, responsible for the conducting the interviews in the 1930s.

Avalon Project
This massive undertaking by Yale University has digitized 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 maintained by the Woodrow Wilson International Center contains a Virtual Archive of primary documents, organized thematically into collections such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and US-Soviet Relations. It includes many memoranda, letters, and government reports on the situation in various countries during the Cold War era.

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. Collectively, these two websites provide online access to selected volumes from 1861-1976. On both websites, the FRUS volumes can be either browsed or searched by keyword.

Google Book Project
Google has digitized large portions of several major university library collections and made them accessible through their search engine. Books not under copyright (including most published before 1922, and many books published in other countries) can be read in their entirety, making this website a great resource for primary source material from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
This digital collection portrays the immigrant experience through a large number of online books, photographs, and manuscripts, including diaries and journals of 19th-century immigrants to the U.S.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook
These sourcebooks of primary source texts are generally arranged by country, period and topic for easy browsing. Use the left-side menu to find relevant subject collections, including pages of documents on "American Independence", "US Civil War", and "US Power" (on 20th century foreign relations).

Making of America - Cornell University
Making of America - University of Michigan
This digital library provides scanned images of the actual pages from primary sources in American social history, from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The Cornell site has full-text access to over 250 monographs and thousands of journal articles; the Michigan site has digitized over 9,000 books published in 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. These "electronic briefing books" highlight the most significant declassified documents on issues such as North Korea's nuclear aspirations, genocide in Rwanda, and President Nixon's Pentagon Papers case.

Voice of the Shuttle: History Resources
This website has a long history as an electronic gateway for humanities researchers, including 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
This collection offers over 500,000 digitized pages 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

See the library's Citing Sources guide for resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


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