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History Research Guide


This guide will assist you in locating published scholarship (essays, books, chapters, journal articles, etc.) to read on a topic.

  1. Choose a topic that is interesting to you and which will work within your assignment's parameters.
  2. Read good summaries of the topic in subject encyclopedias, like those listed below.
  3. Once you have a basic overview, then search for published scholarship in catalogs, databases, etc.

Remember to evaluate the accuracy of your sources, and think critically about their content and arguments.


Reference Essays (from subject Encyclopedias & Dictionaries)

Subject encyclopedias and other reference guides can provide good background information on a topic. Many reference books are in printed format, while others are available in electronic resource collections such as:

Gale eBooks (formerly Gale Virtual Reference Library)

Oxford Reference

Scholarly Books

Search for printed and electronic scholarly books at QC and other CUNY libraries.
Search for scholarly books in the national catalog for the United States and Canada. Includes holdings from libraries in other parts of the world, primarily European or English-speaking.

Scholarly Journal Articles (Search Databases)

What is a scholarly journal article?

A scholarly journal article is written by a scholar or an expert, and provides a detailed analysis of a topic. It is written in the specialized language of a scholarly discipline (such as Philosophy). It documents the resources the writer used by providing bibliographic citations such as footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography so a reader can check or repeat the research the scholar has completed.

A scholarly journal is edited by scholars, and any article published in the journal has usually been approved by the author's peers or by referees (other scholars expert in the subject who serve as editors or readers and critique the article before it is accepted for publication). This is why most scholarly journals are referred to as a Peer-Reviewed or Refereed journals. Here is a comparison between popular and scholarly periodicals. There are usually several databases that can be used to search for journal articles on a topic.

Magazine Articles (Search Databases)

Newspaper Articles (Search Databases)

Book & Film Reviews (Search Databases)

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents that date from the time period being studied, immediate to the events under investigation. These can include letters, diaries, business records, government papers, laws, treaties, etc. The usual subheading for primary sources in library catalogs is “sources”. Sample subject headings include:

France -- History -- Revolution, 1789-1799 -- Sources

Soviet Union -- History -- Revolution, 1917-1921 -- Sources

United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources

Primary Source Collections at QC