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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200A: Crime, Civil Disobedience, and Gender at the University of Illinois, 1867-Present: Finding Secondary Sources


For this course, you must find one secondary source that will help you more broadly to contextualize your research topic. This guide lists some library research tools that you could use to find this secondary source. Many or most of you will probably not have too much trouble finding this single secondary source, and might not even need to use any of the research tools listed in the guide.

However, because this course is also a History 200 ("Introduction to Historical Interpretation"), required for History majors, we have provided a more extensive list of relevant research tools than is, in all likelihood, strictly necessary. Choosing to practice with one or two of these research tools now will better prepare for your History 498 capstone course.

Article Indexes

Use article indexes to identify articles from journals and periodicals. When you search an article index, you are searching bibliographic records that describe articles; you are not searching the actual articles. For many of the citations you retrieve in an article index, the database will also provide direct access to the article.

Most article indexes are designed to support research in a specific discipline or cluster of related disciplines.

The key distinction between an article index and a full text collection is that, in an article index, not every article you identify will be available online. In a full text database, on the other hand, all the articles are available online. Article indexes, however, will usually cover more journals within their disciplines

Article indexes can also contain records for other types of documents, such as dissertations, books, book chapters, conference proceedings, book reviews, magazine (ie. non-scholarly) articles, newspaper articles, and more.

If you have never used an article index before, then it probably will require a larger investment of time up front (compared to full text collections or other discovery tools like EZ Search and Google Scholar), but will save you time in the long run.

The main article index for the study of American history is:

Depending on your topic, another article index, designed for a different discipline (e.g. Sociology, Education, African American Studies, Women's Studies) might also be useful for finding secondary sources on your topic:

In addition to the above, discipline-specific article indexes, there are some general article indexes where you could find secondary sources for your topic:

Full Text Journal Collections

There are several major collections of full-text electronic journals. In these databases you can browse individual issues of journals, or you can do a search across the entire database.

You'll likely find these easier to use, or at last more familiar. These collections will, in general, cover fewer journals for any specific discipline than an article index. However, if you only need one or two secondary sources, then you might find that one of these full text collections meets your needs as well as, or even better than, an article index.

Included in this section is also one full text collection (Ethnic News Watch) that include a mixture of scholarly journals and more popular publication types like newspapers and magazines.

Library Catalogs

When researching in a library, especially a research library, its catalog is probably the most important tool you will use, and one with which you should familiarize yourself as quickly as possible. Even if you think you have never used the Library Catalog here, you probably have and just do not realize it, since "Easy Search", the Library's federated search engine, sends all queries to the Library Catalog along with several other online research tools.

A library catalog is a database of records that identify and describe resources owned by the library. Most of these records describe published resources like books. Use the catalog to find both print sources and digitized sources in the Library's collections.

Many research libraries today will dress their catalogs up with fancy interfaces, making the catalogs appear to have far greater functionality than they actually do. You will be a much better user of library catalogs if you understand the purpose and functions of library catalogs, which are in fact very basic:

  1. The catalog should be an efficient instrument for ascertaining:
    • Whether the library owns a particular work specified by its title;
    • Whether the library owns a particular work specified by its author;
    • Which works by a particular author are in the library;
    • Which editions of a particular work are in the library.1
  2. The catalog should collocate records for works on a common subject under a single, standardized heading.

Digitization of library catalogs has made it possible to perform keyword searches on the records in the catalog. Aside from this innovation, and a few other conveniences, the library catalogs of today are essentially identical (in function) to library catalogs created a hundred years ago.

If the Library does not have the book you need, or else the book you need is charged, then you should next search the:

After you have explored the books available to you here at the University of Illinois, and also at other I-Share libraries, you will want to expand your search using:

If you find a book in WorldCat that you would like to use for your research, you can request it through:

Digitized Book Collections

Chicago Manual of Style


1. International Federation of Library Associations, Statement of Principles: Adopted at the International Conference on Cataloguing Principles, Paris, October 1961, ed. Eva Verona, Definitive ed. (London: International Federation of Library Associations Committee on Cataloguing, 1971), xiii.