START HERE with background information. For basic biographical details and information about the historical context of an author or an event, the best place to look is in a specialized reference or tertiary work (often called an encyclopedia, historical dictionary or handbook). These will help you learn the basic facts to inform the rest of your research.
LibrarySearch, on the MRU Library homepage, also contains reference works/encyclopedias - limit by resource type to reference entries for best results.
Pay close attention to what you find in the encyclopedia entry - it should tell you where and when your author lived, and possibly some basic context for their writing. This is important, as it will help you find books and journal articles about your source and its author.
Note that specialized reference works/encyclopedias like the ones mentioned above are considered tertiary sources - they gather together existing facts or research on a topic and summarize them for quick reference. They have not been peer reviewed in the way scholarly books and journal articles are, and are intended as a source of basic information, rather than a source of scholarly research.
How to Find and Recognize Reference/Background Sources for History 2:28 min.
After you complete your encyclopedia/background source based research, your next move to should be to look at books about your author, the place and historical time period in which they lived, as well as books that discuss the primary text itself. After encyclopedias, books are likely to be the most helpful type of secondary source for your analysis.
You will need to know some basic facts about your primary source in order to find a meaningful secondary source, including who wrote it, when, and where they lived.
Use LibrarySearch ( the Books, articles & more search box) on the MRU Library homepage.
Limit to only books by selecting Resource Type - Books on the right panel.
Keep in mind that often a primary text (as in, a book that includes the text of the Plato's Apology) will often also include an introduction that explains the importance of the text and its historical context, or information about the author, so don't overlook those kinds of books.
Use the right-side filters in LibrarySearch or the advanced search screen to do a subject search for your author's name, or possibly for your primary source title. This will turn up books ABOUT Homer, for example, or books ABOUT the Iliad.
Also try an all fields search using keywords that describe the historical time period & larger issues addressed in the primary source. Make note of new terms as you go
Sample search: "15th century" feminism pisan
If the source you have chosen is not well known or widely studied, you will need to work hard to learn about the place and time period in which it was written, and perhaps also, about the type of person who wrote it - if you are unable to find information about the specific author, or if the author is unknown.
Journal articles should be the last place you look for information for your source analysis. They tend to be narrow in focus, and will be most helpful once you have already gained considerable knowledge about your primary source and its author from books and encyclopedias.
You can start your search for journal articles using LibrarySearch - which is the Books, Articles and More search box on the MRU Library. If you find yourself overwhelmed with results there, you can try some of the following journal article databases which search fewer, but potentially more relevant, journals.
Use the same strategies you used to find scholarly books - look for articles about author's life, the text, and the place and time period in which they lived, using relevant search terms to describe them.
A secondary source is likely to be a relevant for your assignment if any one of the following apply:
For this assignment, you must be able to find and recognize scholarly secondary sources. Some indicators of scholarliness include:
NOTE: the three examples listed above, under the heading "Is Your Secondary Source Relevant" are all examples of scholarly sources.
Use LibrarySearch (the Books, articles & more search box) on the MRU Library homepage to find books and journal articles.
To find a full-length version of your primary source:
Search results can also be filtered to available online if coming to campus isn't possible. Use your MyMRU log on to access the full text.
You may be able to find a full length version of your primary source freely available online. Note that the collections listed below also include secondary sources, so evaluate carefully:
Perseus Project - Greek and Roman sources
Internet History Sourcebook - Ancient, medieval and more contemporary sources
Project Gutenberg - A wide variety of well known printed books that have been digitized
Internet Archive - A wide variety of printed books that have been digitized. This is a very large collection, look very carefully to ensure what you find is actually a primary document.
Search for your primary document by its title and author, and add the phrase "primary document" or "primary source" to your search terms.
Be sure to evaluate the reliability of the website and the organization that hosts it - look for primary documents posted by universities, libraries, or academic organizations for the best chance of the document being complete and accurate. Primary documents that show the original print source of the source are preferred (as in, they list the name of the original publisher and publication date of the book the source came from).
Unsure of what a scholarly article looks like? Check out this guide to recognizing scholarly sources.
For scholarly books, look for: