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LibGuides for history scholars.

Start Your Research

Welcome to the History subject library guide!

Starting Points for History Research

Ishtar Gate ReproductionHistorians gather and synthesize resources from a variety of places. Where you start your research will depend on your topic. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to use these resources to start your search:

  • WorldCat/Books+ - This links to our library catalog and includes materials like eBooks, print books, theses, dissertations, videos, music recordings, and much more. Books+ also searches libraries around the world. Start with a simple keyword search.
  • Databases - Searching individual databases returns better results than using Library Search. Three places to start include:
    • Academic Search Ultimate - Use this as a starting point to see which academic journals have published content related to your topic. Not seeing results? Expand your search using the link to "Choose Databases" and select all of the databases before searching for your keywords.
    • ArchiveGrid - Individual archival collections contain digitized and non-digitized materials related to your topic. Search for archival collections and then contact individual archives to access content. This is especially good for finding primary sources.
    • JSTOR - Humanities publications are the main focus of JSTOR collections. Find books, journal articles, and other content. Use keywords to narrow your search or try the Text Analyzer to find items related to a PDF version of an existing article.

Subject Terms and Keywords

As you review the individual items you have found during your search, you may notice that you need to change the keywords you use to expand your search. Subject Terms are found in Books+ and most databases; they usually refer to specific headings used by the Library of Congress or to subjects identified by the authors, publishers, or database administrators. Using Subject Terms will give you more precise results; several different subject terms may be related to your research topic.

New Acquisitions

American Decades, 1990-1999

Cross-disciplinary source for junior and high school students and teachers, public librarians and general researchers who need to document and analyze periods of contemporary American social history.

American Decades, 2000-2009

Covers everything from monumental events and groundbreaking individuals to the fascinating details of Americans' daily lives. Supports historical research in disciplines from the arts and business to law, medicine, technology and social trends.

American Decades Primary Sources, 2000-2009

This volume covers the first decade of the twenty-first century from monumental events and groundbreaking individuals to the details of Americans' daily lives. Topics include world events, the arts, business and the economy, education, fashion, government and politics, law and justice, lifestyles and social trends, media, medicine and health, religion, science and technology, and sports.

American Decades, 2010-2019

Covers everything from monumental events and groundbreaking individuals to the fascinating details of Americans' daily lives. Supports historical research in disciplines from the arts and business to law, medicine, technology and social trends.

Identify Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Historians define Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary sources differently depending on the context surrounding their usage, their mode of creation, and their disciplinary focus. As a rule of thumb, definitions relate to how close the source is to the original event.

Some guidelines to follow when identifying sources:Radiating circles representing primary sources, secondary sources, and tertiary sources

  • Primary Sources
    • Record first-person accounts of events (diaries, interviews)
    • Present raw data or statistics from their own research
    • Share pioneering research or ideas that influence a new direction in the discipline (seminal text)
  • Secondary Sources
    • Relay second-person accounts of events (historiography)
    • Include supplementary information gathered from many other authors
    • Analyze the thoughts or research of other authors
    • May include scholarly (peer-reviewed) source materials
  • Tertiary Sources
    • Summarize first- and second- person accounts of events (encyclopedias, dictionaries)
    • Present an overview of information
    • Includes most reference texts

CCOW Questions and LibGuide Tutorial

Scholars developed CCOW to critically evaluate sources related to their research. Checking each source using context clues from the source and confirming details using other scholarly, credible, sources will strengthen your scholarship.

<p><strong>Credentials</strong>: Investigate the credentials of the information</p><ul>	<li> What is their educational background?</li>	<li> Do they have an advanced degree in the subject under discussion?</li>	<li> What is their occupation?</li>	<li>Do they work in a field that qualifies them to talk about the subject?</li>	<li>Do they have any other experience that makes them a good source of information?</li></ul><p><strong>Claims</strong>: Analyze the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content</p><ul>	<li> What do experts with credentials related to this information say?</li>	<li>Did you challenge your assumptions?</li>	<li>What types of citations are used?</li>	<li>Is the information current or out of date?</li>	<li>What was happening in the world when this information was created?</li></ul><p><strong>Objectives</strong>: Determine the reason the information exists</p><ul>	<li> What did the creator hope to accomplish by creating this information?</li>	<li> Why was this piece of information created?</li>	<li> Was this information sponsored by someone?</li>	<li> How much fact, opinion, and propaganda are included?</li>	<li> Is the writing objective, impartial, and unbiased?</li></ul><p><strong>Worldview</strong>: Understand the perspective of the creator</p><ul>	<li> How does the creator see and interpret the world?</li>	<li> Why do they see things that way?</li>	<li> Does this information differ from your own worldview?</li>	<li> Is this worldview different from that of the experts you identified?</li>	<li> Does this creator’s worldview threaten the credibility of the information?</li></ul>

Adapted from:

Tardiff, A. (2023, January 25). CCOW: Start. Foley Library. Gonzaga University.

Cite Primary Sources

Below are some commonly needed citations for primary sources in Note-Bibliography style. Examples are taken from Evidence Explained (2007) by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (Website:

Archival Material  Example


Creator. Artifact Title (Quoted Exactly). Item Type. Creation Date. Collection. Repository, Repository Location.

Horst, “Aunt Elle,” et al. “Amish Friendship Sampler Album.” Quilt. Ca 1876-1900. Michigan Quilt Project. Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing.


1. Creator, Artifact Title, Item Type, Creation date; item number, collection; Repository, Repository Location. Descriptive detail relevant to the research project (optional).

1. “Aunt Ella” Horst et al., “Amish Friendship Sampler Album,” quilt, ca. 1876-1900; item 01.0011, Michigan Quilt Project; Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan. The archival description identifies the quilt makers collectively as “Friends of Annie Risser Horst.”

Private Holdings



Compiler. Artifact Type. Creation Date. Current or Last Known Owner. Owner’s Location.

Stabler, Zella (Lovell). Scrapbook. Ca. 1930-80. Privately held by Mrs. Stabler, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.


1. Item Description, Artifact Type, Creation Date; Current or Last Known Owner, Owner’s Location. [Optional: Add description and other information about the item as it related to the research].

1.    G.B. Wuster obituary, undated clipping from unidentified newspaper, in Zella (Loevll) Stabler Scrapbook, ca. 1930-80; privately held by Mrs. Stabler, Williamsport, Pennslyvania.

Census information (digital) 



Jurisdiction. Census ID, Schedule. Item type or format. Website creator/owner (if from an archive website). Website Title. Accessed Date. URL.

Iowa. Marion County. 1850 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. April 18, 2013.


1. Census ID, Jurisdiction, Schedule, Civil Division, Page ID, Household ID, Person(S) of Interest; item type or format, webstie title, accessed date, URL.

1. 1850 U.S. census, Marion County, Iowa, population schedule, Lake Prairie, p. 290 (stamped), dwelling 151, family 156, Virgil W. and Wyatt B. Earp; digital image,, accessed April 18, 2013,

Vital Records



Jurisdiction. Series. Repository, Repository Location.

Maryland. Baltimore County. Marriage Certificates. Maryland Division of Vital Statistics, Baltimore.


1. Jurisdiction, certificate type & number (certificate date), id of person(s); Repository, Location.

1. Baltimore County, Maryland. Marriage certificate no. 8734 (1967), Matthews-Harmon; Maryland Division of Vital Statistics, Baltimore.



Cite Sources using Citation Manuals