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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

World War I

A guide to researching World War I in the library.

How to Begin?

The World War I collections in the University Library are massive, and much of the collection is dispersed across library's 30 departmental libraries. The best way to the collection from a single point of entry is through the library's Online Catalog. To research World War I in the Library, you'll want to proceed systematically. Using the Online Catalog, try the following strategies:

Browse by Subject Headings

The Library's print collections are organized by subject, and you can browse the collection by these subjects. For example, print resources about World War I are organized under the Subject Heading World War, 1914-1918. If you click on the preceding link, you will see that the Subject Heading is further sub-divided into more and more specific Headings. The set of resources filed under the more specific Headings are not included in the set of resources filed under the more general Heading. Therefore, you must look under every Heading that could possibly be relevant to your search. Browsing the menu of Subject Headings is an excellent way to get a broad overview of the Library's World War I print collections. As you work more with Subject Headings, you can begin to predict how they are subdivided. For example, World War, 1914-1918 is subdivided by social groups (e.g. World War, 1914-1918 --Women), nations (e.g. World War, 1914-1918 --Russia), topics (e.g. World War, 1914-1918 --Casualties), and more. To begin browsing the print collections by subject, go to the Online Catalog, select "Subject Headings" in the "Search By" box to the right, and then enter a known Subject Heading.

Browse by Call Number

The print resources in the Library are classified according to their subjects, and you can browse the print collections by these classifications. When you browse books on the shelf, that's precisely what you are doing, but you can also browse virtually in the Online Catalog. Select "Call Number" in the "Search By" box, and enter a known Classification Number. For example, the classification number for World War I is 940.3. Like Subject Headings, Classification Numbers are broken down into more and more specific topics. For example, if you wanted to browse books on World War I war crimes and atrocities, you would begin browsing at 940.405. When you begin your research, you probably won't know the relevant Classification Numbers. However, if you find a relevant book, either through a keyword search, or maybe a recommendation from your teacher or a book review (e.g. Bloody Good: Chivalry, Sacrifice, and the Great War), then you can click on the call number in the catalog record (940.31 F857b), and the catalog will take you to a virtual shelf list, where you can begin browsing the collection by Classification Number. Remember to browse both forward and backward.

Use Article Indexes

Periodicals compose a large portion of the Library's collections. The Online Catalog includes records for these periodicals, but not for the articles in them. For example, we have a record in the Online Catalog for the journal War & Society, but there's nothing in the Catalog to indicate that an issue of this journal contains an article titled "Brain Wounds in the First World War". To identify the articles that are inside these periodicals, you must use an Article Index. Article Indexes are similar to the Online Catalog in that they are organized around Subject Headings. As in the Online Catalog, you can also do keyword searches, but identifying the Subject Headings that organize the database will make it easier to work more methodically. The 3 best Article Indexes for researching World War I will be:

Use Bibliographies and Guides

There are many different types of Bibliography, but in general, a Bibliography's purpose is to map out the published and, in many cases, the unpublished source base for a particular field of inquiry. Bibliographies list both primary and secondary sources since those designations are determined largely by how you use the source. Below is a sample of recommended Bibliographies for researching World War I in the Library:

Use Encyclopedias

Overwhelmed? Stumped? Encyclopedias attempt to summarize the state of knowledge in a field of inquiry. A good encyclopedia can be a valuable starting point for your research.