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ENG 295 (Navitsky): ENG 295 (Navitsky)

A guide on literature research using primary and secondary sources

Tips for using primary sources databases

We have so many great primary source databases for historical research that it can be overwhelming.  Here are some tips to help you navigate them.

  1. First, talk to Professor Navitsky about your topic.  He can give you guidance about what types of sources you could hope to find.  You don't want to waste a lot of looking for sources that just don't exist.  Primary source research is best done near the end of the research process.  You need to already know quite a bit about the historical context of your work to have much success.
  2. Next, eliminate databases that don't fit the location you are working on.  Most of our databases are either just American or just British sources.
  3. Third, look at the date ranges for the databases.  Now you will probably be down to just a handful of choices.
  4. Read the short description on the database page to see what sort of materials are in each database.  This might eliminate a few.
  5. Go into the ones that look promising and look for the about page within the database-- it will have a much more detailed description of what you can find.
  6. Before you start searching, look for a search tips page within the database.  We get these from a bunch of different vendors so they don't all work the same.  Knowing how the search is set up in that particular database helps a lot.
  7. Always set a date range!
  8. Be patient!  Looking for primary sources is usually harder than searching for secondary sources, but it can be very rewarding to find a great source.

Take a look at this page where you can get a feel for the types of materials and subject areas that primary sources can cover!

Research Tips

Tip 1:  Although I am a big fan of using databases to find scholarly articles, for this  class, I suggest that you start your research into your historical context with books/book chapters.  Books are often better at giving you the background and overview of a historical topic, while scholarly articles in  history journals often focus on extremely narrow topics. 

Tip 2:  Remember to mine the bibliographies of reference sources and any other good source you find to more sources.  This can save you a lot of time and is something that scholars do themselves!  Search for the titles in OneSearch to see if we have access.

Tip 3: Use our interlibrary loan systems!  Remember that Professor Navitsky wants good quality sources.  If we don't have have a recent book or a great article on a topic, we can still get it in 2-3 business days.

Tip 4:  Remember that the key to finding good sources is to be willing to try more than one database and try multiple searches.  Remember that changing even one word in a search will bring back very different results.  For instance 'Hawthorne women', 'women 19th', 'women nineteenth' and 'marriage 19th' might all bring back useful sources if you were researching how Hawthorne's portrayal of women in the Scarlet Letter reflected the roles and status of women in the 19th century.

Secondary (Scholarly) Sources

See the description of each database for what subject area(s) it covers and what type of sources it includes.

OneSearch

OneSearch is our search tool that brings back a mix of result types and from different subject areas. 

You should go to OneSearch for:

  1. Checking for books you find in the literature or history databases and journal articles you find in works cited.
  2. Finding more books (especially for historical background!)
  3. Extra sources if you have exhausted the literature and history databases

OneSearch for articles, books, & more

 

Contact Information

Rachel McMullin
Contact:
F.H. Green Library, Room 209
West Chester University   ---    WCU Libraries  25 West Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA 19383  610-430-4400