A Research Guide

Library Catalogue
Reference Materials
Writing and Style Guides
Other Background (Reference) Materials


Every field of academic research has its own approach to research, its own unique set of terms and concepts and its own unique view of the information being studied. This can be a problem when you are trying to conduct research in the University Library system which also has its own ‘language’ (called subject headings but we’ll get those a little later). To help researchers in the field of HISTORY, we’ve designed this guide to assist you in finding relevant research material, based on the different topics of study, at the University of Lethbridge Library. Please remember that the examples listed in the guide are just starting points – there are many more resources available at the Library. If you find yourself getting stuck please use either the Ask Us Service or contact the History Librarian, Marinus Swanepoel.

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Library Catalogue


One of the most challenging aspects of Library research is figuring out how to ask for the results you want from the catalogue/database in a way that the computer understands. The computer is looking for subject headings and it often seems like you trip over results rather than finding exactly what you need. Let’s take a look at the mechanics of subject headings.


MYTH: “Subject headings are just the way Librarians like to torture people into being quiet!”

TRUTH: Subject headings are the best way to bring everyone to the same point when they are researching the same idea or concept. You can imagine how long a catalogue record would be if we catalogued an item according to the way an English speaker thinks of an idea or concept (ex: diaper in Canada/the U.S vs. a nappy in Britain), not to mention regional differences (ill vs. ailing) or personal beliefs (ex: magic vs. “the devil’s work). Then there are over 200 languages in use in the world right now of which English is only a small portion. There are no computer systems in the world with sufficient memory to hold all of records where each concept is expressed in all of the variations in English and then in all of the other languages spoken times 1-10 concepts per item times 70,000+ items. So instead each idea or concept has been given a single term and all searches for those ideas or concepts are funnelled by the system to the same point. The formal name for this is called the Library of Congress subject authorities and all Academic Libraries in Canada and the United States use this system.

The trick can be finding out what the correct subject heading(s) are for your term. The best way to identify the correct subject heading is taking the time to do the following:

A. Identify the key words of your research – which words clearly express what you need to know? Ex: What is the effect of stress on University students?

University Students = the population to be studied

Stress = the condition to be studied

Effect = what we want to know about the condition in relation to the target population

B. Consider possible synonyms (different words that mean the same thing/similar concept; ex: Library or Bookmobile) and acronyms (abbreviations of the phrase ex: AIDS = Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

C. Look for the database/catalogue subject thesaurus.

LIBRARY CATALOGUE: Canadian History -- See Canada History


Database by title/Database by subject - Academic Search Complete - Search terms - enter search term in search box NEXT TO BROWSE FOR (not FIND)

If you can not find a result using your term then try one of your synonyms/acronyms - sometimes the system is programmed to look only for one alternative and it won’t recognize your interpretation of the term. Here are some subject headings, by research topic, that might help you out:


History -General:

Medieval History (4th to 16th centuries) see:

All Regions can be searched by entering: country name history Ex: England - History

American History:

Canadian History: Canada History

Early Modern Europe:

Military History:

Asian History: Asia History


For the Historiography of a topic or a location try: subject – historiography / country – historiography

Ex: Art--Historiography; Bible--Historiography; Catholic Church--Historiography; United States--Historiography; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865—Historiography

Soviet History/Russian History/ German History:

Women’s History:

Latin American History: Latin America History

Ancient History or Classical History:

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Reference Materials


The first step in conducting research on a topic is to search for the BACKGROUND information. This is information that already exists on a topic. Searching for Background information will help you determine what information exists on the topic, identify aspects of your topic that might be on interest for you {REMEMBER you can not possible cover all the aspects of a topic in a regular paper, you need to focus your topic on one aspect} and your research paper, and identify potential resources for your bibliography.

In the Library you will find 2 types of resources for locating background information. The first are the print resources in the Reference Collection (main floor, behind the Information & Research Assistance Desk). These print resources come in three types:

1) General Dictionaries/Encyclopaedias: Resources such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica or a regular English language dictionary such as the Concise Oxford English dictionary are examples of these types of resources.

2) Topic Specific Dictionaries/Encyclopaedias/Atlases: These are in the same format as a general dictionary or encyclopaedia but they are for one specific topic only. These provide a lot of information for researching aspects of a topic and explaining the terminology used in a subject which will assist you with finding subject headings. Examples include the Barrington atlas of the Greek and Roman world and The Oxford encyclopedia of women in world history.

3) Print Indexes: Print indexes are sources of citations (the information needed to locate an item without the actual content) that can lead you to locate sources of information you might want to consult to create your bibliography. These are located in the Index collection behind the Current Serials section on the main floor of the Library. Examples here include C.R.I.S.: the combined retrospective index set to journals in history, 1838-1974 and Isis cumulative bibliography; a bibliography of the history of science formed from Isis critical bibliographies 1-90, 1913-65.

You can locate this information by searching in ADVANCED KEYWORD in the Library Catalogue and selecting either UofL REFERENCE COLLECTION or UofL INDEX COLLECTION for location and then searching for your topic.

The other type of Background Information resource/Reference material is the Electronic or E-BOOK material. This material is the same as print however it comes in an electronic format and it can be used as part of your research even if your Professor has said they do not want to see content from the Internet in your paper. Websites can be used for Background Information even if you do not use them in your papers so long as you verify the contents of the material. You do not want to base your paper on incorrect information and loose marks.

NOTE: Electronic content such as an E-book, web based journal article that you obtain from a database or a PDF document are the same as a print resource however they are accessed through a website rather than through a print document. Internet based content refers to websites, blogs and wiki’s.  The difference is in content and format not the method of access.

The E-Resource content is the same as the print – general, topic-specific and index. The best way to locate this type of material is to look at the Library homepage and under Web Resources select E-Reference. Here you can search either E-Resources by topic or certain amounts of Web-based content by topic. Remember these websites are safe to use as they have been verified by Librarians but be sure to (A) verify the contents yourself – the content of websites do change quite frequently and (B) make sure you aren’t using information that your Professor doesn’t want you to use.

By searching the catalogue this way you can locate material that has been specifically designated as electronic Reference Material rather than just all e-content on a particular topic

While you are on this page be sure to check out Credo Reference and the Gale Virtual Reference Library, both of which are portals to hundreds of general reference sources.

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Books form a more overall picture of a topic and they contain relevant information even though they are published in print and have static content. Books can be found in the Library catalogue by a TITLE search, SUBJECT HEADING Search or an ADVANCED/BASIC Keyword search. The key with books is that you MUST find the (A call number AND (B) the location of the item in order to retrieve the book. A call number is the unique identifier for the book so its call number will always refer to the same book (this means you need the entire call number from the Letter combination at the beginning to the year at the end). In Academic Libraries the system used is called the Library of Congress system where it starts with letters and then numbers and then a year.

You need to know the items' location because at all Academic Libraries books are not organized by subject but by call number – remember how every book can have from 1-10 subject headings? Well try shelving books according to subject: which subject do you pick? How do you organize titles on the shelf? This system just doesn’t work for Academic Libraries. At the University of Lethbridge Library we organize our books by collection type and then by call number. Background information (Reference Material) is located in the Reference Collection, regular research books (what we mainly collect) is in the Main Collection, books that are too large for regular shelves or are ‘oversized’ are in the Oversize Collection, Journals (also called serials) are in the Current Serials collection/Main collection based on age (anything within 5-6 years is current) and then movies and sound recordings (media formats) are in the Media Collection. So with a collection location and a call number you can find any book that has a status of ‘in library.” Ex:

UofL Main Collection  PR 421 C26 2002         IN LIBRARY

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Journal articles are the most current material on a topic for the year in which they were written. Remember a journal article written in 1979 was the most current information on the topic in the year 1979 – it is no longer the current state of research in 2008. In the field of History and Historical Research relevant material can be as much as 20 years old so even if the material is no longer current it can still be relevant. Just remember that if you use older journal material you need to balance it out with relevant material from the last six years otherwise you will be missing out on the whole picture created by the researchers in your topic. Don’t forget that journal articles have bibliographies which can lead you to additional resources that will help you with your research just like topical dictionaries and encyclopaedias. To use someone else’s bibliography to locate potentially useful citations is not plagiarising. This is how research is conducted.

The most important tool for searching for journal articles is the journal’s CITATION: the source information that lets you retrieve the article. A journal citation looks something like this:

AUTHOR                                          TITLE

Kermes, Stephanie. “Traveling Women: Narrative Visions of Early America – By Susan Clair Imbarrato”

     Historian;             70, no.2 (Summer2008): p314-315.


It is critical that when you search with a citation that you search by JOURNAL TITLE not the ARTICLE TITLE. The reason is that just like subject headings Libraries need to make searching easy and take less memory so we catalogue by the title of the journal rather than by the title of each and every article.

The JOURNAL TITLE search on the Library homepage is the first way to find articles. This form of search is very effective if you already have a citation – if you are looking to browse the journal then you should use a DATABASE rather than a JOURNAL TITLE search. By selecting JOURNAL TITLE search you can search by journal title, topic or publisher. You can search for either part or all of a journal name, just remember that if a journal title starts with ‘Journal of…’ you should search for ‘Journal of’ plus one word from the title since ‘Journal of…’ is one of the most popular journal title format! Ex:

History 0018-2648
University of Lethbridge Library Collections: PAPER: v. 53-63, 1968-1978, v. 64, no. 211-212, 1979, v. 65-66, 1980-1981; v. 67, no. 219-220, 1982; v. 68-85, 1983-2000; v. 86, no. 282-284, 2001; v. 287, no. 286-288, 2002; v. 88, 2003+
INTERNET: v. 1, 1916+ Academic Search Complete: full-text 1990-06-01 - (12 months embargo) Blackwell Synergy: full-text 1916-01-01 (v.1 i.4)

University of Lethbridge Library Collections Refers to the print copies physically held in the Library - you will need a call number and a volume and issue number

"Academic Search Complete: full-text 1990-06-01 - (12 months embargo) and Blackwell Synergy: full-text 1916-01-01 (v.1 i.4) " This refers to the electronic resources where you can view the electronic copies of the journal. An “embargo” is the amount of time before the publisher will  allow the most current content to go electronic. When you see an embargo and you need an article that falls within that timeframe you can access the print copy if we have it or you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

*you cannot Interlibrary Loan articles if we have a print copy*


The second way to locate journal articles is through the Library’s electronic DATABASES.  DATABASES are used for finding articles when you have a topic but not a citation. There are many different databases and although you will become familiar with one or two of them and use them often you should look at the descriptions of the databases and be willing to try them out based on your topic. For example if you were searching a Canadian History topic you would use the America: History and Life database which deals with topics related only to the history of Canada and the United States. If you were researching a topic on British History you wouldn’t want to use this database instead you would want to use a database such as Historical Abstracts.  

To find the Databases see the Library Homepage – Databases by Subject – HISTORY. If you are on campus you can connect to the Database you want and begin your search. If you are off campus and your Library privileges are up-to-date (see Library Homepage – Apply for/Update Library privileges if yours aren’t) you need to login using your User name and password which is the same as your BRIDGE login.

*Don’t forget to use your Subject Thesaurus tool to help you find the correct subject headings for the database and your terms*

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It is essential to be cautious amount material available on websites and you should always check with your Professors to ensure you understand their expectations regarding Historical material on the Web. Here are some sites that maybe relevant for both primary and secondary source information and which have been verified AT THE TIME OF THE CREATION OF THIS DOCUMENT. Remember web site content and links change and you should always verify the accuracy of any web based information you find before you use it.



H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online

Best of History Web Sites – all topics

History On-line



Internet Ancient History Sourcebook

Exploring Ancient World Cultures: Internet Cite Index

Digital Roman Forum [as Recommend by Choice Reviews, December 2007]

Electronic Resources for Classicists: The Second Generation

Pomoerium: Classical Resources (See the “virtual library’)

Voice of the Shuttle: Classical Studies

Perseus Digital Library


Byzantium: Byzantine Studies on the Internet

Internet Medieval Sourcebook – at the bottom of the page are links to sources by Region & Topic

The Labyrinth: Resources for Medieval Studies


The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy

Cybrary of the Holocaust: Links Pages

Internet Modern History Sourcebook – includes some content for Early Modern Europe


Canadian Military History Gateway – free access to full text including several e-books from the Department of National Defence, Government of Canada

War of 1812 digital Collection - The War of 1812 Digital Collection is a search portal containing historical documents and artifacts related to the war, including rare or unique books, maps, memoirs, military correspondence, and physical objects. This open-access resource features War of 1812 material drawn from our sister site, Early Canadiana Online, as well as items generously contributed by our partners — museums, archives, all levels of government, and the wider heritage community.

Heroes Remember – free Primary Source content of the video and audio interviews with Veterans of the wars of the 20th century and one of the few places to find the true stories of Chinese-Canadian Veterans

from the Department of Veteran Affairs, Government of Canada.

War, Peace and Security - an Information Resource Centre from the Department of National Defence, Government of Canada

Defence and Security – an index to Military content and information around the World compiled by the Department of the Parliament Library, Parliament Australia

World War II Resources: Primary source materials on the Web – Primary Source Documents

United States Military Academy Library's Digital Collections


People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* Histor

Internet Women's History Sourcebook


Publications in Western Canadian Women's History




Canada’s Digital Collections

Canadian History on the Web

Online Resources for Canadian Heritage

The Canadian Encyclopedia

The Alberta Women's Memory Project



The Black Past: Remembered and reclaimed – 6 centuries of African-American History, some Canadian Content

The Learning Page -Index of Primary Source Content for American History from the Library of Congress

Chronicling America:Historic American Newspapers [This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present]

Civil War Resources on the Internet: Abolitionism to Reconstruction (1830's - 1890's)

Chronology of US Historical Documents

American Presidency Project [Recommended in Choice Reviews, October 2007]

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930 [Recommended in Choice Reviews, September 2007]


The Victorian Web

History- British Isles

Historical Text Archive – Links

Gentleman's Magazine from 1731 to 1866


Internet African History Sourcebook

16th- Early 20th Century Maps of Africa


Internet East Asian History Sourcebook

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Writing and Style Guides


The Department of History requires that all History students make use of the CHICAGO citation style for their Bibliographies and Reference Lists. You will find copies of the CHICAGO citation manual in the Library Reference Collection and at the Information & Research Assistance Desk (call number REFNC Z 253 U69 2003). You can also consult the Library Homepage – Research Help (this link is below the Database search tabs on the Library Homepage) - Citing Sources (APA, MLA...) – Chicago. You will find several different style guides however I recommend the one marked Documenting Sources - Chicago Style (Bedford/St. Martin's) as this one is extremely accurate and it contains drop down menus to assist you in locating the citation information you need.

REMEMBER: you may have to combine 2 or more styles as not every situation you will run into will be available in the online or print guides.

TIP: When citing focus on the format rather than the number of authors

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Under Research Help you will also find links to other tools such as Book Reviews, Annotated Bibliographies, Analyzing web sites and many more helpful resources.

At any time if you require further assistance please contact either the Librarians at the Information and Research Assistance Desk using the Ask Us Service or contact the History Librarian, Marinus Swanepoel.

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Other Background (Reference) Materials


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 Content Revised: November 22, 2012
 Content Created: June 10, 2008

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