Before you can begin looking for sources for your essay, you need to have a list of search terms that describe the topic and what you need to learn about it.
You can do this by brainstorming what you already know about the book, by reading some simple background sources about it, and also by collecting new search terms as you browse through possible secondary sources in the Library search tools
Your list of possible search terms could include:
Time period in which the book is set
Geographical setting for the book
Major themes or issues discussed in the book
Major historical events that occurred in the book
When it is time to search for sources, you can combine these terms in different ways to find relevant 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.
Compare the following articles - one scholarly, one non-scholarly. How are they different? What indicators can you identify that help you recognize the scholarly source?
Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History 7:42 min.
To get a basic understanding of events or issues related to your topic, and to build your search vocabulary, it can help to consult specialized academic encyclopedias. You will find them on the Background Sources tab of this research guide.
Recommended tools for this course include:
Tip: Within an encyclopedia, use one or two very simple search terms e.g., japanese internment, residential schools, midwifery, World War I etc.
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.
LibrarySearch - the search box on the MRU library homepage - is the best way to find print and electronic books.
For some topics, it can be difficult to find books about the Canadian historical context. 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.
- when searching for your sources, use search terms you imagine an expert would use, take notes as you come upon new terms. Brainstorm for related terms.
- 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
If you still can't find a good source, or are overwhelmed with the results in LibrarySearch, 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, and will cover some historical aspects of each of the novels studied in this course.
Instructors at MRU are required to have their teaching evaluated regularly. Please complete a brief evaluation of this library session by following the link provided: