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Start Your Research With Background Sources

Background sources are useful tools for learning quick facts, important dates and overviews of key events, issues and individuals in history. They are an excellent starting point for a research project.

Try the encyclopedias linked to the Background Sources tab of this guide. To find more substantial entries, check the word counts shown in the result lists. Use the title of the encyclopedia article/entry to determine relevance.

OR try browsing one of the following reference books about modern European history:

Scholarly Secondary Sources for History

Recognising and finding scholarly sources 10:00 min

If you haven't taken a history course before, or need a refresher in how to find and recognize appropriate scholarly sources for your paper, the following video addresses these topics, and gives an overview of the key features in MRU's main search tool, LibrarySearch, found on the MRU library homepage.

Skip straight to using MRU LibrarySearch: 3:33


In LibrarySearch, try limiting searches by:

  • using the sidebar options (e.g. limit results to only relevant subjects, or to preferred resource type, e.g., books)
  • using the advanced search to search for important terms in the subject or title fields on the drop-down menus
    • Sample search for sources on relations between of England and France during the interwar period (using subject field)
    • Sample search for biographical information about Napoleon I (using title field)
  • refining results to only peer-reviewed sources (searches only within scholarly journals)
  • And sign in for enhanced results, to save "pinned" favourites lists and search queries.

Find Articles in a History-Specific Database

If you are overwhelmed with results in LibrarySearch, or if you are having trouble finding relevant sources, try looking in a History-specific article database. You will often find fewer, but more relevant, sources in a discipline-specific database.

Historical Abstracts is considered an important article database for European history.

How to find articles in Historical Abstracts
length: 2.14 min 



Historical Abstracts SearchTips:
- Look for the filters on the left side panel to improve your search results.
- Use the advanced search to search for terms in specific places (e.g., title, subject, abstract of articles)
- Use the advanced search to search for articles that study a specific historical timeframe - a very useful strategy for this course.

Chicago Style Citation (Notes & Bibliography)

Most history assignments will require you to use Chicago Style (Notes Bibliography) to cite or document your sources. Make sure you are using the Notes-Bibliography version of Chicago style, and ask Alice for help if you need it.

Search Tips

Finding too much?

- Put “Quotation Marks Around Your Search" to search for exact phrases

Finding too little?

- Use OR between your ideas to search for EITHER term

- Put * after the root of a word to look for multiple endings
e.g., Europ* will finde Europ-e and Europ-ean.

- For better searching, think of multiple ways to describe your topic

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Alice Swabey
Drop-in help Mondays 12-2 at the Library Service Desk. Appointments available via Google Meet or in-person. Email help is also available.