How do you start looking for your primary and secondary sources?
There are three ways of finding historical sources:
Experienced historians use a combination of all three, but not necessarily in that order.
Browsing requires a lot of luck and serendipity. Try looking at the titles on the shelves with call numbers that begin with FC (the prefix for Canadian History), keyword searching in the catalogue, or looking through recent issues of historical journals.
Following citations, sometimes called Citation Chaining or Footnote Mining, is like asking a trusted authority or expert. After identifying a useful journal article or scholarly book, look up the sources that author used, as evidence in their footnotes and bibliography. The author of that work is an expert on the subject and knows what’s been written on the subject. But there are limitations: the most recent work on your subject may be decades old.
Using search tools is the most consistently reliable way to find information on any subject, especially for new researchers. There are hundreds of indexes and catalogues for finding information about all subjects. McGill’s Library Catalogue and America: History and Life are two important indexes you should use to find historical resources. Each index deals with different kinds of things and this guide will introduce you to some of them.
There are three kinds of strategies to use when searching indexes for primary and secondary sources for this assignment.
Where to start?
Each source type is very different and you will need a different kind of logic to find each one.
Work your way through the sections of this guide. The methodology for each kind of source will be explained on the appropriate pages.