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HIST 1301 and 1302

Keywords

What Is Your Research Topic?

Once you have made a decision, you should generate keywords. Keywords are search terms that you use when searching for information about your topic. The above video explains how you can write keywords. Watch it, then continue reading this section.

Let's pose an example: you're writing about the causes of the American Civil War. Your keywords could include:

  • United States and Civil War and slavery
  • United States and Civil War and economics
  • United States and Civil War and cause
  • United States and Civil War and sectionalism

Notice that I have included the term "United States" in this list. That's because many nations have had civil wars. If you want to search for, specifically, the American Civil War, you should include keywords that would trigger that civil war and not, say, the Roman civil war of 49 BC or the Brazilian civil war of 1932.

When writing keywords or even starting  historical research, it can be very helpful to get some background information first. A database like CREDO Reference is perfect for this task. Read an article or two about your topic so that  you become more familiar with it. This will make it easier to select keywords and to know if information sources that you find are actually relevant.

Introduction to Databases

Database Basics

Now that you have keywords, it's time to search the databases. Have you used the databases before? If you don't have recent experience with our library's databases, then I suggest watching this introductory video.

Primary Sources in Databases

How to Find Primary Sources in Databases

The above video explains the differences between primary and secondary sources.

In the study of history, primary sources refers to first-hand accounts of events. For example, if you're researching the Burning of Washington, DC in 1814, then primary sources might include:

  • Records of the US and British armies engaged in the area.
  • Memoirs or diaries of civilians who lived in Washington, DC at the time.
  • Newspaper reports written by witnesses to the burning.

Your professor may require you to use a certain number of primary sources for your research project. Here are some good databases to search.

Primary Sources in Websites

How to Find Primary Sources in Websites

Below you can find a list of websites which contain primary sources for the study of United States history.

Secondary Sources in Databases

How to Find Secondary Sources in the Library Databases

Secondary sources are sources of information written by people who are citing primary (or even other secondary sources) as their sources of information.

That's a complicated definition, so let's simplify it. Historical books and articles written by people who weren't actually there are secondary sources.

Here are some good databases for finding secondary sources about historical topics.

eBooks

How to Search eBooks

We have two excellent ebook databases. These let you read full-text books online. The interfaces can be confusing, so I have included a tutorial video for each one.

The video above shows you how to search the ebook database titled EBSCO eBook Collection.

The video above shows you how to search the database ProQuest EBook Central.

Chicago Manual of Style Documentation

How to Cite Your Sources According to the Chicago Manual of Style

You must cite your sources according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

This is our video that introduces Chicago Manual of Style documentation. I urge you to watch the entire video carefully before starting to write your paper or annotated bibliography. It is much easier to cite correctly as you go along, rather than try to fix your documentation after you have written your paper.

This is a sample paper. When you're writing a paper, you can model the formatting of your paper after this one. You must cite in a particular way in the body of your paper and a particular way in your bibliography.

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