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HIST 146: Find Sources: Articles and More

Search Strategies

The MC Library has access to different kinds of search tools: 

  • RaptorSearch: Searches across most of the information that you can access through the MC Library. Find books, e-books, streaming audio and video, and DVDs and CDs as well as articles and other electronic resources from databases available through the library.
  • Databases: Collections of articles, videos, images, or other types of sources. Some databases cover a wide range of subject areas or source types (multidisciplinary), while other databases are discipline or format based (e.g., PsycINFO or AP Images).

Use the tabs in the box below to find suggested databases or other search tools to use for a variety of types of sources. 

MC students, faculty, and staff  can access all of our search tools and online resources from on or off-campus.

Research Skills & Tips:

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. You'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas: the keywords.

Keywords are individual words or short phrases that represent the main ideas in your topic, thesis, or research question. 

Example Question: What were the agricultural resources in Mesopotamian civilization?

Keywords: "Mesopotamian civilization", agriculture; farming; 

After you've identified your main ideas and some keywords to start with, think of additional search terms for each concept. These can be synonyms, related ideas, broader terms, or narrower terms. Since a database will match only what you type, using different terms for similar ideas can help you find more articles. 

Example Search Terms: 

  • "Ancient Mesopotamia", Mesopotamia, 
  • farming, crops, agriculture, "agricultural tools", irrigation

Now that you have identified keywords, you will combine them in the database search box. Try more than one combination to find different sources! 

Use the search operators AND & OR to combine your search terms. â€‹Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase, with the words in that exact order: "social media" 

Use AND between your main ideas to narrow your search (all words will be found in each source): 
  • Agriculture AND  Mesopotamia
  • Farming AND "Mesopotamian civilization"
 

Diagram shows overlap between gov't & free speech

Use OR to look for related search terms, in one search (at least one of the search words will be found in each source). This will increase the number of sources you find. Put related search terms in parentheses, and combine with other terms: 
  • Mesopotamia OR "ancient Mesopotamia" and (crops or farming or irrigation) 

Diagram shows social media & internet highlighted

Research Skills & Tips:

Filter Results:

To make your results more manageable, use the database filters to limit your search results. For example:

  • Full-text access: To ensure that all items from your search results include the entire article or publication, select "full text" from filtering/refining options on the search results page.
  • Source types: If you know you only need peer-reviewed journal articles, select peer reviewed. Or, if you want to see only magazine articles, e-books, or another type of source, you can select only what you need. 
  • Publication date: If your sources must be from within the last five years, you can set the year of publication to reflect that. 

These options may be found in different locations of a database’s results page. In RaptorSearch, filter options are found on the left.

You can also set these options before you search from the Advanced Search screen in most databases. 

Sort Results:

Most database search results will be sorted by relevance. You can change this to sort by newest first, oldest first, etc. Look for the sort options near the top of the results list. 

Find Sources for Ancient History

Historical research involves the use of primary and secondary sources.

primary source is a first-hand account, report or original data on or about an event. These sources are often created at or near the time of the event. A secondary source is a second-hand account or interpretation, opinion or analysis of an event. Good secondary sources are based on the interpretation of a wide variety of primary sources.

Many archives, museums, and libraries make important primary documents and images available digitally.

Research Skills & Tips:

When & Why to Use Scholarly Books:

  • You need to understand a complex topic (these are easier to read than journal articles)
  • You need very in-depth analysis of a topic
  • You need a broad understanding of one or more topics
  • You need a summary of existing research on a topic

Search:

Research Skills & Tips:

Research Guide on History

Also known as scholarly articles, or academic articles. Some journal articles are "peer reviewed," which means they've gone through an extra review process before being published. 

When & Why to Use Journal Articles:

  • Information is based on research and expertise
  • Information is detailed and focused on a narrow topic
  • The peer-review process (mostly) ensures that the information is accurate
  • They add to a growing understanding of a topic by contributing new ideas 

Search:

Research Skills & Tips: 

The MC Library has access to streaming videos and audio (as well as DVDs and CDs). You can find documentaries, educational videos, and mainstream movies. 

When & Why to Use Videos:

  • You need to include an expert's point of view, and a documentary on your topic includes an interview 
  • You are doing a presentation and need to include a visual

Search:

Step 2: Find Sources

"Find Sources." Magnifying Glass.

To find sources, start by thinking about your research questions and the type of information you need. For example, you may need to search in different places to find statistics than you would if you need to find images. 

This page provides tips for how to develop a search strategy and also links to search tools you can use to find specific types of sources. 

As you search, consider the tips on the Evaluate Sources page, and assess each article, book, website or other source that you find.