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History 143 Writing Assignment

The purpose of this short guide is to help you find, as expeditiously as possible, the sources you will need to complete the writing assignment for this class.

Finding Secondary Sources

Whether you have chosen to write the historiography or the research paper, you will need to use secondary sources.

To find secondary sources, a good place to begin would be with one of the following three encyclopedias:

Use these sources to narrow down your topic, or to select a topic that is likely to have a reasonably accessible source base.

The entries in these encyclopedias all include bibliographies. The entries in the bibliographies have been selected by experts.

Remember that encyclopedia entries are not historiographies. Although encyclopedias attempt to summarize, broadly, the current state of knowledge in a specific field of inquiry, they do not attempt to represent the different critical, methodological, or theoretical approaches to those topics.

A second place to search for secondary sources:

Use Historical Abstracts to identify journal articles, book reviews, dissertations, and books on all aspects of world history (excluding North America) from 1450 to the present.

A third place to search for secondary sources:

Use the Online Catalog to find books.

Finding Primary Sources

There is no one place to search for primary sources, since almost any document can be a primary source (even those you discover while searching for secondary sources). A primary source is a primary source if you use it as one, as your instructor has probably explained already.

A good place to look for primary sources that are available online (most of these have been digitized from print originals) is:

Another strategy for finding primary sources is to go back to your secondary sources and see what sources, or what kinds of sources, the scholars who have already worked on this topic used.

Some publishers compile primary source documents and publish them as books, book sets, or microfilm sets. To find these publications, watch for the following subject heading sub-divisions when browsing subject headings in the Online Catalog:

  • Correspondence
  • Sources
  • Diaries
  • Personal narratives
  • Interviews
  • Speeches
  • Documents
  • Archives


Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions: Geoffrey Ross | (217) 333-1509 | gtross@illinois.edu