Resources for Reading and Writing History

History Help Center
Resources for Reading and Writing History

compiled by Professor Mark Brilliant

 

Guides

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Using Reference Books to Help Choose a Research Paper Topic on America's Civil Rights and Social Movements - A list of reference books (e.g., The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America) contained in the reference areas of various UC Berkeley libraries (mostly Doe and Moffitt). For students with little or no idea about a research paper topic, reference books often provide a good starting point. They're easily accessible and can point to any number of possible research paper topics.

Finding Primary Sources - An online guide from the UC Berkeley Library. For more on finding primary sources see below.

How to Read Historiography

How to Take Notes on Historiography

The Elements of Style - A classic reference book on writing style.

Politics and the English Language - George Orwell's classic essay on writing style.

Reading, Writing, and Researching for History - A comprehensive guide.

Penning the Past: Advice on Writing in the Historical Discipline - A comprehensive guide.

Elements of an Effective Exam Essay - A 4-page document I developed that details a number of essential elements of writing an effective exam essay.

 

Finding Academic Journal Articles (secondary sources)

Note to UC-Berkeley students: Access to the databses mentioned below is through here, where you will find a listing of all library electornic resources in alphabetical order. Information for how to access these databases from off campus can be found here.

America: History and Life
Indexes articles contained in some 2,000 academic journals on the history of the US and Canada from prehistory to the present. Includes links to full text of articles online (if available).

Chicano Database
Indexes articles about Mexican-American topics (since 1967) and other Latino groups (since 1992).

Expanded Academic ASAP
Indexes articles from popular magazines, general interest journals, scholarly journals and newspapers in the humanities, social sciences, and general sciences.

International Index of Black Periodicals
Indexes over 150 scholarly and popular journals, newspapers, and newsletters from the US, Africa, and the Caribbean. Coverage is international in scope and touches on disciplines such as art, cultural criticism, economics, education, health, history, language, literature, law, philosophy, politics, religion, and sociology.

Lexis-Nexis Academic
Provides full-text access to law review articles (among many other things). From the Lexis-Nexis Academic homepage, click on "legal research" and then follow the instructions for conducting searches of law reviews for articles.

 

Finding Books (secondary sources)

Note to UC-Berkeley students: For secondary sources in the form of books (rather than academic journal articles discussed above), the best place to locate them is through Pathfinder (for holdings at Berkeley) or Melvyl (for holdings in the entire UC system). The search terms you use are absolutely essential to locating relevant materials, which are catalogued using subject headings determined by the Library of Congress. (Neither Pathfinder or Melvyl search as initutively as Google. Therefore, you must experiment with search terms.) Once you find one book that's relevant to your research, scroll down in the record for that book to "subject headings" and click on the subject heading that seems to most closely resemble your research interests. Doing so will turn up other books like the first one you searched. For information for how to borrow books from other UC libraries, please consult Interlibrary Borrowing Services.

Locating Books in the Berkeley Library Using Pathfinder - A guide from the UC Berkeley Library.

 

Finding Newspaper and Popular Magazine Articles (primary sources)

Note to UC-Berkeley students: Among other things, microfilm versions of hundreds of newspapers can be found here in Doe Library. Unfortunately, indexes to most newspapers do not exist. In that case, if you want to find specific newspaper accounts of specific issues and events, you generally need to search your chosen newspaper(s) microfilm reel(s) around the date of the issue and event in which you're interested. A few major newspapers (listed below) are accessible and searchable online. Access to these newspapers - and the other databases listed below - is through here, where you will find a listing of all library electornic resources in alphabetical order. Information for how to access these databases from off campus can be found here.

America's Newspapers
Indexes more than 200 newspapers including many California papers such as Contra Costa Times (1995-current), Fresno Bee (1986-current), Los Angeles Times (1985-current), Santa Rosa Press Democrat (1994-current), Sacramento Bee (1984-current), San Francisco Chronicle (1985-current), and San Jose Mercury News (1985-current). Articles cover community events, schools, politics, government policies, cultural activities, local companies, state industries, and people in the community. Articles are available the day after publication.

Ethnic NewsWatch
An interdisciplinary, bilingual (English and Spanish) and comprehensive full text database of newspapers, magazines and journals from ethnic, minority and native presses. Linking the current database (1990-present) with a retrospective backfile of titles (1960-1989), the collective coverage spans more than four decades, from 1960 to the present.

Making of America
"A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction [and beyond to the early 20th century]. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology.  This site provides access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints."

ProQuest Newspapers (Los Angeles Times, 1881-1984)
Offers digital full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue.

ProQuest Newspapers (New York Times, 1850-2001)
Offers digital full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue.

ProQuest Newspapers (Wall Street Journal, 1889-1987)
Offers digital full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue.

Reader's Guide Retrospective
Indexes more than 500 leading American magazines and journals such as Time and Newsweek from 1890 to 1982.

 

Finding Primary Sources Other than Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Full text versions of MOST primary sources CANNOT be found on the internet. A useful practice for locating primary sources is to look at the footnotes and bibliographies of secondary sources that are relevant to your research, i.e., work your way backwards to the primary sources through the secondary sources.

Finding Primary Sources - An online guide from the UC Berkeley Library.

Pathfinder (for UC Berkeley students) - There's no substitute for using the library's search engine, Pathfinder. You need to experiment with multiple search terms and be sure to select "manuscripts" in the second "limit by" box. Pathfinder will point you to primary source materials located in the Bancroft Library (as well as other libraries on campus).

Online Archive of California - "The Online Archive of California (OAC) is a digital information resource that facilitates and provides access to materials such as manuscripts, photographs, and works of art held in libraries, museums, archives, and other institutions across California. The OAC is available to a broad spectrum of users - students, teachers, and researchers of all levels. Through the OAC, all have access to information previously available only to scholars who traveled to collection sites. The OAC includes a single, searchable database of "finding aids" to primary sources and their digital facsimiles. Primary sources include letters, diaries, manuscripts, legal and financial records, photographs and other pictorial items, maps, architectural and engineering records, artwork, scientific logbooks, electronic records, sound recordings, oral histories artifacts and ephemera. Describing primary sources in detail, finding aids are the guides and inventories to collections held in archives, museums, libraries and historical societies. Finding aids provide detailed descriptions of collections, their intellectual organization and, at varying levels of analysis, of individual items in the collections. Access to the finding aid is essential for understanding the true content of a collection and for determining whether it is likely to satisfy your research needs." Keep in mind, though, that the finding aids that can be found on OAC are but a fraction of those that exist in the various archives (such as Bancroft) which participate in OAC.

Regional Oral History Office - As a division of the Bancroft Library, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) preserves the history of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the Western United States. By conducting carefully researched, tape-recorded, and transcribed interviews, ROHO creates archival oral histories intended for the widest possible use. Since its inception in 1954, ROHO has carried out interviews in a variety of major subject areas, including politics and government, law and jurisprudence, arts and letters, business and labor, social and community history, University of California history, natural resources and the environment, and science and technology. Individual interviews have been used as source material for monographs, books, articles, video and film documentaries, and dissertations. Once you navigate your way to the ROHO website, click on "collections" where you'll find tools for searching ROHO's holdings.

Stanford University's Special Collections and University Archives - This is Stanford's equivalent of Berkeley's Bancroft Library. It contains an extraordinarily rich collection of Chicano history primary sources, among other things. As with Bancroft, many of the finding aids to Stanford's archival holdings can be found online through the Online Archive of California (OAC, described above). However, as with Bancroft, most finding aids cannot be found online.

 

Annotation (i.e., footnotes and bibliographies for research papers)

In the discipline of history, the Chicago Manual of Style provides the guide to footnotes and bibliographies. Here are some helpful, albeit incomplete, online guides to Chicago Manual of Style citation:

http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Citations.html - A UC-Berkeley library page that will allow you to download a 6-page PDF file, "Turabian and Chicago Styles Citation."

http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/DocChicago.html

http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/cite7.html - This link is particularly useful for figuring out how to cite electronic sources.

For proper footnotes and bibliographies for types of sources not contained in these online guides – such as materials from archival collections – consult a hard copy of the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition). For UC-Berkeley students, you'll find this in the reference areas of either Doe or Moffitt libraries under the call number PE1408.U69 2003.

A handy, affordable, and simplified version of the Chicago Manual of Style is Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.