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History - General

This guide is intended to help you get started with finding relevant information related to your history class or topics of interest.

Types of Sources & Tips

1. Primary source – is an original source of information and may be a document, an artifact, a recording, an autobiography, a personal account, or information in another format that serves as a source of information created during the time period that is being studied.


  • Diary of Anne Frank
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Dress worn my Dolly Madison
  • Journal articles from a peer-review journal *Journals share new information or discoveries*
  • Speeches
  • Photographs
  • A  painting by Monet
  • Patents
  • Birth certificate
  • Doctoral dissertation

2. Secondary source – is based on primary sources of information. A secondary source may summarize, interpret, evaluate, and analyze information from an original source. 


  • Book about Daniel Boone 
  • Textbooks
  • A critique of Monet’s painting
  • Movie reviews
  • An article in Redbook magazine
  • Encyclopedia

3. Scholarly -  an information source that is authoritative, written by experts and for experts for the purpose of disseminating new knowledge in the field. It should be noted that not all scholarly sources are "peer-reviewed" .  

Difference between scholarly and popular works:

Scholarly works are

  • written by experts
  • based on original research
  • citations are included for every source used
  • may be peer-reviewed before published
  • published by a professional society or association, an academic press, or university

**Professional/trade works may be written by experts, but are not peer-reviewed. These include an array of topics, share news, report findings, alert readers to upcoming scholarly publications, or share trends in the field. 

Popular works

  • include magazines and are usually not written by experts, but contributors that may not have any expert knowledge on the topic.
  • are not peer-reviewed
  • the tone of the article is very informal, technical terms are not used
  • articles may not be comprehensive, but brief

4. Peer-reviewed journals -   contain articles that have been examined by a panel of experts in a field before it has been published. These experts have evaluated the article for credibility, expertise, research methods, and contribution to existing research.

Quick Tip: when searching databases limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. 

5. Full-text - refers to the complete article and may include any graphs, illustrations, and images included in the print version.

Quick Tip: when searching databases for full-text articles limit your search to full-text. This will save you a lot of time by not having to search through hundreds or thousands of results of when full text articles are what you need.

6. Abstract - refers to the summary of an article. 

Quick Tip: it is best to read the abstract of an article to determine if the article may provide the information you are looking for before printing it out.