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History Department Module: Finding Secondary Sources: Home

Time Saving Strategies

Pearl Growing

One of the easiest ways to find sources is by reading what others have cited. In other words, once you have found one good source, you can build off of others.  This process is called 'pearl-growing.'  Click here for a video explaining how to do this.

Finding History Articles in Databases

No matter what search engine you use for academic journal articles, limiting your search to "History" will help in weeding out material that may not be relevant to your assignment.  Ask your instructor if works from other fields of study will be acceptable. 

Boolean Operators

Learn to use AND / OR / NOT in your searches by clicking here.

Finding Scholarly Books

How do you locate a book?

If you already know of a good, recent scholarly book or academic journal article on a particular topic, one of the best ways to find more sources is to examine closely the works that the author mentions in the citations or bibliography. The "pearl grow" video to the left gives a demonstration of this process. If the title of the work is italicized, it is a published book.

If you wish to find a scholarly book, there are a few strategies that you can use.

You can use Murphy Library's Search@UW catalog to see what books are available here on campus.  Select UW-La Crosse Books & Media in the dropdown menu prior to clicking on the search button to see only the resources we have in the library.

Search@UW will also show you which materials are available throughout the entire University of Wisconsin system, including at Murphy.  If a book is not available here, you can request it and it will arrive within a few days.  Click here for a video on using the Search@UW catalog to locate books for a history project.

The widest possible search would be through WorldCat, a catalog of the holdings of many libraries across the country and world.  Once you click the link, scroll down to WorldCat itself.  If you locate something through WorldCat and it is available at a UW-system library, you must request it through the Universal Borrowing Catalog.  If it is not, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.  Click here for a video on using WorldCat for searching for scholarly books.

Finding Journal Articles

How do you locate an academic journal article?

If you already know of a good, recent scholarly book or academic journal article on a particular topic, one of the best ways to find more sources is to examine closely the works that the author mentions in the citations or bibliographies.  The "pearl grow" video to the left gives a demonstration of this process. If the title of the work is in quotation marks, it is likely a journal article.  To verify if you can directly access an article, type its title in the Search@UW catalog.  Or, you can click on the 'Journals' tab and then enter the title of the journal.  This will tell you which database has which years of the journal, or if the library happens to have a hard copy.  You can request anything we do not have immediate access to via Interlibrary Loan.

If you are starting from scratch and wish to find a scholarly article, there are several very helpful search engines, listed below with links to their sites.  Many of these engines provide links to the full text of the articles, and so you can have these instantaneously.  If they are not available online, remember that you can request a journal article via Interlibrary Loan.

No matter what search engine you use, limiting your search to “History” will help in weeding out material that may not be relevant to your assignment.  Depending on the assignment, you might want to also check the appropriate geographical area studies category (African, American, American Indian, Asian, European, Latin American, etc.). Note that these area studies are interdisciplinary and so will give results that are not strictly works of history. Check with you professor on the appropriateness of using non-history specific sources.

The main difference for you between these search engines will be what is available immediately and how you can limit your searches.  JSTOR, for instance, frequently lacks the full text for last 5 years of various journals, whereas Project Muse typically has even the latest issues.  Historical Abstracts is history-specific and allows you to limit your search to an historical period or span of years. The Search@UW catalog does include access to JSTOR and Project Muse materials as well, although it may seem more confusing and less user-friendly than those databases.

Besides the links below, you can find these databases from the Murphy Library home page by clicking on Databases by 'title' when you select the  'Books, Articles and More' tab.  Just click on the letter that begins the name of the database. 

Click here for a video demonstrating how to use JSTOR.


Links

How do I know what kind of source to use?

  • Determine what makes the most sense for you and your assignment. Book or article?

    • For articles, consider the following:
      • Do your articles need to be from a history perspective/written by a historian? Check with your professor if in doubt.
        • If so, limit your searches to history subject areas and/or add "history" as a search term.
        • If not, look at other area studies that might have relevant information (African studies, Latin America studies, etc.)
      • How current do you need your article to be?
        • JSTOR has a "wall" of up to five years, meaning that a journal may not be available until five years later. Each journal is slightly different, so you will need to check. In some cases, it may not matter if the article is older.
        • Project Muse may have current issues
        • If you search within an EBSCO database, consider choosing one that is specific to history (American History and Life, European Views of the Americas, Historical Abstracts, History Reference Center)

    • For both, consider:
      • Have you allowed yourself at least a week to receive materials? 
      • If so, great. You can request virtually any article you find and trust that it will be emailed to you. Books within the UW-System via Universal Borrowing usually take 2-3 days, and books from neighboring states within the week.
      • If not (and we know it happens), you will need to restrict yourself to books within Murphy Library and to full-text articles. 
      • Who are the "big names" in your field? Consider a search with those authors
      • What are the major journals in your field? You can consult the LibGuide in your subject area page or ask your professor for recommended titles.