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History 1133

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources

Most academic assignments will call on you to find and read scholarly sources; being able to recognize these types of sources is an important academic skill that you will apply throughout your academic life.

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History 7:42 min.

General Search Advice

Search vocabulary is important

Before you can begin looking for secondary sources effectively in the Library research tools, you need a list of meaningful search terms to describe the topic and what you need to learn about it.

Brainstorm what you already know about the topic and collect new search terms as you browse through possible secondary sources in the Library search tools

Your list of possible search terms might include:

  • Time period of the event(s) under study (e.g., 1950s, 19th century, etc.)

  • Geographical location of events under study. Be prepared to broaden out to other locations/regions as needed, (e.g., if there's nothing out there about Calgary, look for sources that discuss Alberta, or another Western location)

  • Major historical events or themes related to your topic

  • Specific populations or individuals connected to your topic (e.g., women, students, ethnic groups etc.)

- use search terms you imagine an expert would use, take notes as you come upon new terms


How you construct searches makes a difference

- Avoid long strings of words and sentence fragments when you search:

Good search:  japanese internment Canada
Poor search: internment of japanese people in Canada 

- To retrieve fewer, more relevant search results, add a term to your query 
       japanese internment Canada property

- Put important phrases inside quotation marks -- "world war"

- use an asterisk to search for all possible endings of a term
           Canad* will find Canada, Canadian, Canadians

- search for similar terms at the same time by putting them inside brackets and connecting them with OR:
          (Indigenous OR aboriginal) 

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 specific article 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. 

Chicago Citation Resources

Chicago style citation resources for MRU will help you format your footnotes and bibliography.

Alice Swabey's picture
Alice Swabey
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