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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.


Find Books & Articles Using LibrarySearch

Books are often the best starting point for studying a historical topic that is new to you.

  • Books will address multiple aspects of a large topic, for example, discussing the broader historical context of an issue or event in one chapter, with other chapters on specific events or key historical figures.
  • Browsing book chapters is a great way to narrow a research topic. 
  • In the discipline of History, books are an important form of scholarly publication and dissemination.

Journal articles are more narrow in their focus and are often a good option once you have a basic understanding of a the broader topic/issue.

LibrarySearch is the best way to find print and electronic books and articles at MRU

LibrarySearch isn't always searching inside the books and articles themselves, so you may find additional sources by searching more broadly for the issue/time period into which your topic might fall (e.g., searching for "cold war" "united states" if a search for "cold war" "united states" espionage was unsuccessful). Within the search results, look at the item descriptions, chapter headings, and check the indexes to see if your narrower topic of espionage and Cold War America is discussed.

Pro Tip
For some topics, it can be difficult to find narrow a topic successfully via your search terms. if adding a relevant search term to your query doesn't seem to narrow things down, limit your search by selecting Subject from the options on the right side, then choose a relevant subject tag from the list of options.
LlibrarySearch subject filter


Pro Tip
Did you know you can lock your filters in place in Library Search? Hover your cursor over the limit and click to look it in place. Now, even if you change your search terms, the limit will stay in place.

Image of option to lock in a filter. Cursor is hovering over the limit and image of lock appears.

History-Specific Journal Article Databases

If you find yourself overwhelmed with results in LibrarySearch you can try some of the following journal article databases which search fewer, but potentially more relevant, journals.

Use the same strategies you used in LibrarySearch, and be sure to use the advanced search options and filters to improve results.

Materials Beyond MRU Library

Background Sources on US History


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Alice Swabey
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