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History 2202 - Historian's Craft Research Guide

Part 1: Modes of Inquiry Assignment - Finding Articles

Search Within A History Database

Using a history specific database will help you find relevant scholarly articles more efficiently. The key databases for history are:

America History and Life - focuses on Canadian and American history. 

Historical Abstracts - focuses on world history outside North America. 

Tip: You can search these two databases at the same time; look for the Choose Databases option from inside either database to add another database to your search. 

Search Vocabulary

Start your search for relevant articles using terms you know, and look carefully for ways to improve your search vocabulary as you browse results. 

  • Look for relevant subject headings or tags
  • Skim article abstracts and any author-assigned keywords that appear there
  • Use these new terms to improve subsequent searches
  • Historical methodologies are likely to have varied terms to describe them, you will need to look for these carefully and try several search terms until you start to get good results.

Terminology tips for historical methodologies: 

Women's history; Feminism; Feminism & history; History & gender; Women historians; History - Masculinity

Quantitative history; History -- Statistical methods; Statistical analysis; Quantitative research; Data; Data mining; Quantitative analysis


Make Use of Enhanced Database Search Features

Many databases, including the ones listed above, offer features to improve search results:
  • Limit search results to source type of scholarly journals
  • Limit search results by a specific subject 
  • Visit the advanced search screen - use the drop down menu to search for terms that appear only in the subject or the abstract of an article; this is a great way to improve the relevance of results
  • Limit by the historical time period that is discussed in the article, this will be particularly helpful for those working on Option B of the assignment.


Search Within Thematic Journals 

There are numerous thematic history journals that focus on publishing research from specific perspectives and research methodologies. Searching directly within this type of journal will generally turn up methodologically relevant articles more quickly.

Look closely at journal titles as you browse article results in the databases, and make note of thematic titles, e.g. Gender History, Labour History, etc. then search MRU's Journals by Title to search directly within a journal. 

Examples of Thematic History Journals

Part Two: Historian Review


Choosing a historian to review

If you are trying to decide on a historian to review for this assignment, here are some suggestions:

- Skim your course outline for articles by or and discussions of historians that piqued your interest in class

- Skim Wikipedia's List of Historians" entry, or Google "20th century historians" or for a form of historiography that interests you, for example "feminist historians," "marxist historians" etc. 

- Browse one of the following ebooks for ideas:

Finding Biographical & Autobiographical Sources

Biographies and autiobiographies of historians can be found in a number types of sources including books, journals, magazines, and encyclopedia entries:

- Canadian Historical Review: Do a search for "A Life in History" to find articles in the CHR's biography series.

- Oxford Biographical Dictionary: Search here for extenisve biographical entries for historians from across or otherwise involved in the history of the British empire.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Search here for Canadian historians by name. 

- Advanced LibrarySearch - Do a combined search for historians in the subject field, with your author's name anywhere.

- America History & Life and HIstorical Abstracts: Use the advanced search to search for historians or historians biograph* in the subject field; add your author's surname. Try limiting to particular historical time period.

Finding Reviews of Your Historian's Work

You will also want to find out what other historians had to say about the work of your historian in the form of reviews and review articles.

  • LibrarySearch: Keyword search for you author, filtering by resource type of "review"
  • History-specific article databases: Do an advanced search, limiting by document type of "book review", or add "review article" to your keyword search.

Recognizing Scholarly Sources

Unsure of what a scholarly article looks like? Check out this guide to recognizing scholarly sources. 

Scholarly sources:

  •  Are written by academics, usually with an advanced degree in the discipline they write about. 
  •  Always include footnotes/ references (usually many of them)
  • Use scholarly terminology, and are aimed at other researchers
  • Have been peer reviewed
  • Are lengthy - generally 12+ pages long
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Alice Swabey
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