Skip to Main Content

HIST 266: Find Sources

Search Strategies

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

  • Databases: Collections of articles, videos, images, or other types of sources. Some databases cover a wide range of subject areas or source types, while others are focused narrowly on one (e.g., only psychology journals; only images). 
  • MC Library Catalog: Shows the books, ebooks, streaming or hard copy audio and video available through the library (does not provide access to any articles). 
  • RaptorSearch: Searches across most of the information that you can access through the MC Library, including the MC Library Catalog and most of our databases

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. Use your MC ID (with the letter M) to log in. 

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: How has gender role changed in the Nigerian households in the 20th century?

Keywords: Nigerian households, gender role, history

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: 

  • Nigerian households: Nigerian families
  • gender role: sex role, women's role
  • history: change, develop, transition

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. ​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): 
  • government and regulate and Internet and "free speech" 
  • family and "gender role" and change and Nigeria

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: 

  • government and regulate and (internet or "social media")
  • (family or household) and "gender role" and Nigeria 

Diagram shows social media & internet highlighted

Research Skills & Tips:

Filter Results:

To make your results more manageable, use the database filters to refine the search results by full-text access, source types, publication date, and other factors that serve your research purposes.

  • Full-text access: Some databases will list search results that we do not have access to through the MC Library subscription. To avoid this, select "full text." (This option is automatically selected in RaptorSearch.)
  • 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 located in different areas of the database results list. In RaptorSearch, the options will be 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 HIST 266

When & Why to Use Journal Articles:

  • Information is based on research and expertise
  • Information is detailed and focused on a narrow topic
  • Some go through the peer-review process to ensure the accuracy of information
  • They add to a growing understanding of a topic by contributing new ideas 


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

Where to Go in the Library for Books on African History?

General books on World History are organized chronologically in the section labeled "D."  History of Africa is covered in the sections of DT1 to 3415. Browse the library shelves in these call number areas to find materials relating to your topic:

      DT 160 - 177        North Africa
      DT 179.2 - 179.9  Northwest Africa
      DT 348 - 363.3    Central Sub-Saharan Africa
      DT 365 - 469       Eastern Africa
      DT 470 - 671       West Africa.  West Coast
      DT 1001 - 1190   Southern Africa
      DT 1501 - 1685   Namibia.  Southwest Africa
      DT 1701 - 2405   South Africa

Search directly in the MC Library Catalog to find a book on African History:

Examples of Books or E-Books Catalog Records:

Highlighted E-Books Source:

Research Skills & Tips:

Newspapers are another good source of articles and reviews on current and historical topics. 


Primary sources are original materials from people who have a direct connection with the event being investigated. Examples include speeches, diaries, letters, images, artwork, interviews, music, or other items created during the time of the event. 

When & Why to Use Primary Sources

  • Scholarly research should be based on facts and observation. Primary sources bring you into contact with the first­hand accounts of an event.
  • Primary sources expose you to multiple perspectives on issues of the past and present. Using primary sources encourages critical thinking and analysis in comparing sources that represent differing points of view.


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


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 Evaluating Sources page, and assess each article, book, website or other source that you find.