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Recognizing Scholarly Sources in History

History is a topic with broad interest that extends beyond history scholars. For this reason, you must pay particular attention to the quality and audience of the sources you will use in your research. Look for substantial sources that clearly display indicators of scholarliness:

  • Authority: Written by a history scholar with an advanced academic credential, published by a reputable academic organization.
  • Audience: Aimed at an academic audience.
  • Process: The source should be based on substantial original research (look for footnotes and bibliography), and be peer-reviewed.


Use a History-Specific Journal Database

Using history-specific research tools can often return more relevant results, more quickly.

Try America History and Lifethe main journal article database for the study of Canadian history.

  • Experiment with the advanced search, try searching for important search terms in the TITLE, ABSTRACT or SUBJECT of sources. 
  • Try limiting by advanced searches to a specific HISTORICAL TIME PERIOD
  • As you search, look for new keywords, along with narrower and broader ideas related to your topic.  Write them down to improve future searching.

For Indigenous topics, try searching the Bibliography of Native North Americans. Be sure to limit to peer-reviewed.

Historians Publish Books (not just journal articles)

Tips for using books:

  • Browse tables of contents to identify essay topics and to assess for relevance and scholarliness.
  • Look for Subject Headings (they look like hashtags) in the item descriptions to help improve your search vocabulary.

Search for books, book chapters, and journal articles in LibrarySearch

Use the MRU LibrarySearch tool - the search box on the library homepage - to find information in all formats (books, journal articles, videos, magazines) simultaneously.

LibrarySearch Tips:​

  • Sign in! This allows you to save the items you "pin" to a favourites list (look for the push pin icon), and also allows you to save search queries
  • Use the sidebar options (e.g. limit results to only relevant subjects, or to preferred resource type, e.g., books)
  • Refine results to only peer-reviewed sources (searches only within scholarly journals)
  • Use the advanced search to search for important terms in the subject or title fields on the drop-down menu

Chicago Style Citation


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Cari Merkley

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