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HIST 203: Canada Since 1867

Research guide for HIST 203 (Winter 2024)

Finding Secondary Sources: Scholarly Books

Use the Catalogue to find scholarly books. Most books you will find fall into this category. You can limit the results of your searches to books by selecting "Book" from the format menu on the left side of your list of search results.


One useful way is to find the appropriate subject headings. Subject headings are useful because they bring all the books on a given subject together, regardless of the keywords in the title or descriptions. There are several kinds of headings: people, places, events, and concepts being the most obvious. 

The best way to approach subject headings is to start with some words you know to be appropriate for your topic and search them in the Catalogue.  Then look at the records for the books you find and locate the subject headings, such as the example below. Each subject heading is a hyperlink that acts like a hashtag -- you can click on it to find other books on the same topic. 


References in modern secondary works, either articles or chapters of books dealing with your topic are also a useful source for finding still more relevant works. But remember, while you can build up a very useful chain of references, it will only lead backwards in time (Citation Chaining).  More recent references will only come from the Catalogue.

A recent book by a recognized scholar on any subject will usually be a good starting point for that subject. Review the points about scholarly and popular works mentioned above. 

Once you find your book, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the book a recent one? Is it a “reprint” of an earlier work? An unrevised reprint means that the content is unchanged, and even eBooks may be older than you think.
  • A “new edition” means that the content has been revised and brought up to date. 
  • If it has been reprinted, it may mean that it is still of historical value. A reprint of a classic work on the subject may have a new introduction placing the original work in its context. The sources cited in an older work (even if recently reprinted) will not be the most recent ones and will probably be less useful to you.

A recent scholarly book is not only a good starting point for your research, but it is also one of the best places to find more secondary and primary sources.

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