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Historical Research

Finding Background Information on History Topics

Before you can really delve into research on a topic, you need to get a sense of the major themes, and start collecting some keywords and concepts to investigate. If you jump straight into a very detailed and specific scholarly research article, you'll get confused fast unless you have a sense of the bigger story.

You can become much more confident doing research on a new topic by starting with some background reading- often called reference sources. The most famous reference source is now Wikipedia, but for scholarly research you need to delve a little bit deeper into other types of background sources, such as Encyclopedias or Scholarly Books that can give you a broad overview of a time period or issue. However, if the Wikipedia page links out to a website or article that is current, accurate and well-written, you can find some great sources that way.

Here are some other ideas for reference sources to try:


  • Encyclopedias focusing on history topics.
    • This is a link to a list of Discover Search results showing some specialized encyclopedias focusing on history topics. This search is limited to encyclopedias the Five Colleges own as full text ebooks.