General Hints and Clues for Finding Sources

Use the bibliography provided for the course. For most courses, professors provide a bibliography of locally available sources (i.e., in the WCU library), arranged by topic (often in the order material is covered in class). You should start there. If sources on your topic are listed in the course bibliography, but not used in your paper, the results are not going to be favorable.

Use the standard reference resources for the area of your topic. Various specialty reference works are available for certain areas of history. For example, in any area of church history one should consult the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, or for a course on the British Empire, one should look at the Oxford History of the British Empire. If a course bibliography is provided, check for standard reference works listed there.

Look for books/monographs using the library catalog. But don’t limit yourself to reference works. Search the WCU library catalog for relevant books or monographs. Also, think of works that may refer to your topic other than books listed specifically for that subject. For example, while you may not find individual books listed for individual figures or events, books on the history of the region they affected will cover them. Many students report that, “the library doesn’t have anything on this subject,” when that simply is not true. Be diligent and resourceful.

Search for journal articles in online search engines. William Carey’s library system subscribes to several search databases, such as UMI’s ProQuest, EBSCOhost, or JSTOR. Beware of citation issues related to online databases, however (see below).

Be resourceful. Look for sources in the bibliographies of reference works and other sources you find. Don’t forget to use textbooks!

Consult with your instructor. Instructors are willing to discuss bibliographic issues, but only after the student has made an effort to find sources on their own. Do not come into an instructor’s office asking, “do you have any books on . . . ?” Do come into their office and say, “I have found these sources; do you know of anything I am missing?”

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