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Secondary Sources: Books

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

  • They will address multiple aspects of a large topic, for example, discussing the broader historical context of an issue or event in one chapter, with chapters on specific aspects of the issue, or a chapter on key historical figures in another chapter.
  • Looking at the chapters in a book on a topic that interests you is a great way to narrow a research topic too. 
  • If you come from an academic field that publishes its research mostly in the form of journal articles, it is important to know that in the discipline of History, books are an important form of scholarly publication and dissemination and should not be overlooked.

LibrarySearch is the best way to find print and electronic books.

LibrarySearch isn't searching within the books themselves, so you may find additional sources by searching more broadly for the issue or time period into which your topic might fall (e.g., searching for racism Canada history if a search for anti-asian racism canada was unsuccessful). Within those books, look at the chapter headings or check the index to see if your narrower topic of anti-asiam racism is discussed.

Additional Tips

  • Limit your search to books by selecting Resource Type - Books from the options on the right

Image of limit by resource type in LibrarySearch. The option for books is highlighted.

  • Make sure that the book you have chosen takes a scholarly approach to the topic. These means that the book is written by an expert in the field (e.g. a Professor of History or closely related field; Google if it is unclear) who cites the source material they used throughout the book. Typically, these books are published by university presses (e.g. Oxford University Press) or publishers who specialize in academic publishing (e.g. Routledge, Wiley, Bloomsbury, Basic, ABC-Clio; Google if it is unclear)


Pro Tip

For some topics, it can be difficult to find books about the Canadian historical context. Canadian history is a relatively small area of study compared to British or American history. If adding the search term Canada to your search words doesn't seem to narrow things down, limit your search by selecting Subject from the options on the right side, then choose Canada (or another relevant subject tag) from the list of options.


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.

Secondary Sources: Journal Articles

Finding & Recognizing Journal Articles

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 place and time period in which they lived, and their significance using relevant search terms to describe them.

Not sure if your source is a scholarly article? They typically have the following characteristics:

Be aware of these popular, non-scholarly magazines

  • Canada's History is a well known, popular history magazine that includes articles about many, many of the topics covered in this course. Though it may be informative as you try to choose or narrow down a topic for an essay, it is not a scholarly source and is generally not appropriate for academic use.
  • Example of a non-scholarly/popular article from Canada's History: "1918 - Year of the Conscript"
  • Other popular, non-scholarly magazines to be aware of:
    • The Beaver - the former name of Canada's History
    • History Magazine
    • History Today
  • Or look for these indicators of popular, non-scholarly publications
    • articles are short (less than 10-12 pages)
    • very few or no footnotes or references
    • may include many images
    • author is usually but not always unaffiliated with any university or college 


Journal Article Databases For History

Tips for Finding & Recognizing Scholarly Sources

This video explains how to recognize scholarly sources in History, and how to use LibrarySearch to find them.

Recognising and finding scholarly sources 10:00 min
Skip straight to using MRU LibrarySearch: 3:33


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Alice Swabey
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