Loyola University Chicago Libraries

HIST 389: Races to the White House: Presidential History: Home

Elizabeth Shermer

Fall 2020

  How can we together insure you do your best when learning online and performing digital research?

Write to me at jcurrie@luc.edu for research support, appointment requests, ebook recommendations, and instruction opportunities. All questions welcome!

Research Paper Assignment

Use this guide to assist your identification of primary source articles and secondary sources, both ejournal articles and ebooks, as well as print books in Loyola's library (for students who wish to visit campus; all may effectively perform this research with exclusively digital sources--request support when you wish by setting an appointment or writing to jcurrie@luc.edu).

Find News Articles from the Period and Place

These articles will serve as your primary sources. The databases linked and described below present a strong sampling but not a complete list. Refer to the history research guide for a more exhaustive list.

Find Ebooks

Open search notes on how to find ebooks specifically.

To find print books in the library's collection, use the same search scope described for ebook-finding but do not use the online filter. Instead, consider the full results list and place a hold on any available print book that interests you. When your hold request becomes available for pick-up at the location you indicated, you will receive an email alert linked to a calendar on which you may schedule a date/time to get it. Learn more about the library's reopening and direct your questions to jcurrie@luc.edu or our Ask a Librarian service.

Find Ejournal Articles

Supplement your book sources with ejournal articles. Look for them using the essential research database for American history and let it link you into full text found in ejournal collections and archives such as JSTOR.

Effective Search Techniques: Operators

You can do more than simply search your keywords! Experiment with the search methods described below and begin adopting them into your research practice. You will save time by more quickly and effectively reaching a balance between a precise search and an exhaustive one.

Most library catalogs and research databases have an advanced search that enable search operators (known as Boolean searching):

keyword: election
keyword: 1968

This search will look for the presence of both the supplied keywords.

keyword: election OR voting
keyword: 1968

This search will look for either of the first two keywords but only if it also finds the third supplied keyword.

A third but less often used operator allows a researcher to leave any item with an unwanted term out of the search results.

keyword: republican
keyword: libertarian 

This search will look for the first supplied keyword but only in the absence of the second.

Learn more about these operators and this technique using a guide from the University of Southern California. I also welcome an appointment with you during which we can apply these concepts to your research project.

Effective Search Techniques: Marks

In many library catalogs and research databases, use quotation marks to conduct phrase searching. The quotation marks mean an item will only appear in a results list if the enclosed words sit side-by-side in some part of its catalog/database record.

"presidential nomination" will find these words side-by-side but will ignore the word nomination by itself

The asterisk provides another helpful mark. Insert it at the end of a root word to find all of the variations on that root, a technique known as truncation.

nomin* will find nomination, nominee, nominate, nominated

Effective Search Technique: Assessment

Before you use a source, whether a book, an article, a documentary film, or even a primary source such as an interview or diary, you want to assess it critically. Particularly important: its age, its authority, and its argument. Regarding age, know that in history an older source may have lasting value but you must also watch for methodologies no longer considered accurate or perspectives no longer valid. Regarding authority, take care to know who authored the source and their background, whether scholar or journalist. No name? Than what about the reputation of the source itself? As for argument, look at the sources used and watch for bias or propaganda. Does your assessment leave you uncertain? Find an alternative or ask a professor or a librarian for input on the source before you use it. Remember that your professor may look over your works cited page or bibliography before they ever look at your writing. Impress them! Cite authoritative sources that effectively made their argument, an argument that logically connects to your own.

Watch this three-minute video from University Libraries at North Carolina State University and get a multidisciplinary understanding of source evaluation. The NCSU library produces videos in partnership with the Department of Computer Science.

Subject Librarian

Jane Currie's picture
Jane Currie
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