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Studying the Historical Context of Contemporary Canadian Issues

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources

If you are unsure what constitutes a scholarly secondary source for your assignment, the following short video will help.

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History and the Humanities 7:42 min.

Find Background Information on Your Topic

If you are unsure of where to begin in identifying historical events that will help you contextualize the current issue you have chosen to study, consulting a tertiary or background source early on in your study may be helpful in identifying key events, dates, people and organizations. 

Recommended background sources for Canadian history:

*Note that these are tertiary sources, which can be useful launchpads to your research, though they are not peer-reviewed or based on original research.

Finding Primary Sources

The following video explains-

  • what primary sources are
  • how to identify leads for possible primary sources
  • search strategies that are important in successful primary source research
  • tools and tips one for finding Canadian primary sources, including MRU's Library Search, Google, and the Primary Sources for Canadian History section of this guide

18 minutes
Skimming secondary sources for leads on primary sources - 3:41
MRU LibrarySearch and primary source - 6:12
Google and primary sources - 8:59
Canadiana Online and primary sources - 13:17
Canadian historical newspapers - 15:17

Finding Secondary Sources

Find scholarly books and articles using MRU's LibrarySearch

  • On the library homepage, use the Books, articles & more box.

  • To to find scholarly journal articles, check "peer-reviewed" on the right side of the screen.

  • To find books, filter by "resource type" to "books" on the right side of the screen.

  • Try the Advanced Search option, and use the drop-down menus to search for important search terms in the Subject or Titles of library items.

Finding and Accessing Books & Articles in MRU's LibrarySearch 5:32 min


Still can't find a source? Try a History Database.

If you are overwhelmed with results in LibrarySearch, or having trouble finding relevant enough sources, try searching in a history specific journal article database.

America History and Life: includes articles on the history and culture of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present.

Using America History & Life, from the University of Guelph 2:00 min.

Find something in American History & Life, but MRU doesn't seem to own it?

Place an interlibrary loan request and we will find a library who can provide it for you. Note that during COVID, print books and other physical materials may not be available via interlibrary loan, but most journal articles are. 


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Alice Swabey
Drop-in help Mondays 2-4 at the Library Service Desk. Appointments available via Google Meet or in-person. Email help is also available.