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History Research Guide

Historical Research: Introduction

This guide will help you find published scholarship (essays, books, chapters, journal articles, etc.) and primary sources on a topic.

  • Choose a topic that interests you and fits within your assignment's parameters.
  • Read good summaries of the topic in subject encyclopedias, like those listed below, to gain a basic overview of your topic.
  • Search for published scholarship in library discovery systems, catalogs, databases, research organization websites, etc.
  • Identify primary source material (e. g. documents, records, artifacts, surveys, data, etc.) through your scholarly readings, and by searching or browsing the digital collections of libraries, archives, museums, and other scholarly organizations.

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

For remote login to the Library's electronic resources, see our instructions for Off-Campus Access.

Remember to consult with your instructor in the History Department about your project!

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

OneSearch
Search for printed and electronic scholarly books at QC and other CUNY libraries.
 
WorldCat
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.

eBook Collections

eBook Collections

Ebooks from our various QC collections and from Open Access collections are usually accessible through OneSearch but there are occasionally errors or omissions, so it's good to know what the other ebook collections are so you can search them directly.

QC eBook Collections

On the Databases page you can sort the A-Z list to display databases that have ebook content within them. Under ‘All Database Types’ select ‘Electronic Books.’ Some ebook databases are devoted entirely to ebooks, while others have a variety of documents including ebooks. Here is a list of those that are useful for Anthropology, History, and other humanities and social science disciplines.

Open Access eBook Collections

You can access ebooks freely that are open access. Some open access collections are valuable for older, historical titles that were published before 1925 and are now in the public domain (outside of copyright restrictions). Other collections contain contemporary or recently published titles.

Directory of Open Access Books

English Short-Title Catalogue (ESTC)

Google Books

HathiTrust Digital Library

Internet Archive

Open Library

Oxford Text Archive

Project Gutenberg

Universal Library (Internet Archive)

Public Library eBook Collections

New York public libraries also offer access to books and ebooks for New York State residents who register for a library card.

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)

BPL: Ebooks & Audiobooks

BPL Get a Library Card

New York Public Library (NYPL)

NYPL: Books, Music, Movies

NYPL: Get a Library Card

Queens Public Library (QPL)

QPL: Books, Movies, & More

QPL: Get a Library Card

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