I. Getting Started
Types of Sources
There are many ways to approach historical research, and you will probably need to use several strategies to find the material you need. As you begin formulating your thesis, you’ll want to identify the main currents of thought on your topic. Which historians have taken up this topic and what are their main arguments? How has our understanding of the subject changed with shifts in the predominant methodologies and theoretical perspectives in the historical profession? In answering these questions, you will use secondary sources, the published work of scholars specializing in the topic, which present their analysis or interpretation. This is also termed the secondary literature on the subject.
Secondary literature includes scholarly books, book chapters, articles, and essays (both analyses by contemporary scholars as well as older scholarly analyses), surveys, criticism, comparative studies, reference sources, and works on theory and methodology. When we talk about secondary sources, most of the time we are referring to the published scholarship on a subject, rather than the supplemental material (bibliographies, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.). Secondary literature is published both in book form and as articles in periodicals, either in print or digital format. (Digital format includes both reproduction of print material online and original e-text.)
To identify secondary literature, you can do subject searches in the online catalog to find books or subject searches in article databases to find articles; article databases may list books as well as articles from journals. You can also consult standard published bibliographies (e.g., the American Historical Association Guide to Historical Literature) and specialized bibliographies (e.g., Bibliographical Essays in Medieval Jewish Studies).
You can also look for review essays, in which a historian who specializes in the subject analyzes recent scholarship; you may find more lengthy historiographical treatments of the topic published as chapters in collections, journal articles, or even monographs; you can read about the topic in a subject encyclopedia and look at the bibliography at the end of the entry; and you can find a major work of scholarship on the topic and follow up on the sources used by the author (footnote tracking).
Most of the time you will find the secondary literature you need by using the online catalog, the appropriate article databases, and a subject encyclopedia or bibliography.
If you are doing original research, you will need to identify primary sources in addition to the secondary literature on the subject. These are sources produced at the time of the event or phenomenon you are investigating which purport to document it. They provide the raw material which you will analyze and interpret. Primary sources can be published or unpublished (archival).
Published primary source material covers a wide range of publications, including first-person accounts, memoirs, diaries, letters, newspapers, statistical reports, government documents, commentary in periodicals contemporaneous with the phenomenon you are investigating, reports of associations, organizations and institutions, maps, iconographic material (e.g., photographs, posters, advertising images, paintings, prints, and illustrations), literary works and motion pictures.
What constitutes a primary source depends in part on how you have formulated your research topic. You can find published primary sources by using the online catalog and published bibliographies. You can also look at secondary literature on your topic to see what sources other scholars have used in their research. There is nothing in the online catalog record for a book that indicates whether it is a primary or secondary source, and many sources, whether text or image, can serve as either primary or secondary sources. The key is how you use the material.
The UIUC Library also has some unpublished primary source material (archives and manuscripts), but this is a relatively small body of material compared to the abundance of published primary sources held by the Library, and it is unlikely to include any material relevant to the Jewish Atlantic World in the early modern period.
II. UIUC Online Catalog
Use the online catalog to do a subject search for books or to find out where a particular book or journal is located in the Library
Books and journals are organized in the library by subject. Each item is assigned one or more subject headings and a unique call number. Subject headings are standardized terms from the Library of Congress. The call number is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification.
Why bother with subject headings in the online catalog when you can do keyword searching?
It’s true that you can find sources on a topic by doing keyword searches. But if you limit yourself to keyword searching, you are likely to miss important material on your topic that uses other terms. If you only need two or three books, you can probably find what you need by doing keyword searches, but if you are doing historical research, you can’t afford to miss critical material on your topic. For a comprehensive subject search, search with subject headings as well as keywords.
A good way to identify subject headings for a topic is to do a keyword search in the online catalog using terms you think describe the topic and try to identify a few relevant books. Look at the full record for those books to see what subject headings were used, then do another search on those headings. (See examples below.)
As a rule of thumb, use fairly broad headings, as well as the specific ones that describe your topic, in order to make sure you haven’t inadvertently eliminated relevant material that is contained within works of larger scope. Most likely you will find multiple headings to describe your topic, and you should use all of them. You can narrow your search in the online catalog by combining subject headings (as a phrase) with keywords, using the “Advanced Search” option.
Here are some examples of subject headings relating to the Jewish Atlantic world:
- Jews-Spain-History-Expulsion, 1492
- Jewish women-History
- Slavery and Judaism
- Slavery-Caribbean Area-History
- Slavery (Jewish law)
- Jewish slave traders
- Jews-Caribbean Area
- Slave trade-Great Britain-History
- Jews-History-17th century
- Jews-Politics and government
- Jewish merchants-Europe-History
- Jews-History-16th century
- Jews-Intellectual life-History
- Jews-North America-History
- Jews-Latin America-History
- Jews-United States-History
- Judaism-History-Medieval and early modern period, 425-1789
Searching with subject headings does have its limitations. Not only are the subject headings highly stylized and idiosyncratic, the system (Library of Congress subject headings, or LCSH) is not particularly responsive to new scholarly trends. The entire field of inquiry known as the history of daily life is not captured with any precision by LCSH (Germany-Social life and customs is about as close as you can get).
Because of the limitations of subject headings, you may need to spend considerable time searching the online catalog to find books on your particular topic. Once you have identified a few relevant books, take note of the call numbers and try browsing the shelves in those ranges.
To search the online catalog, go to the Library Gateway (http://www.library.uiuc.edu) and click on “UIUC Library Online Catalog.”
The online catalog offers both “Quick Search” and “Advanced Search” options. Use “Advanced Search” to identify subject headings on your topic, to combine subject headings (or elements from subject headings) in a Boolean search, or to combine keywords from any part of the record with subject headings to narrow your search.
Do an Advanced Search on the terms “Jews” and “Caribbean” to find books on this topic. Then look at the subject headings in your results (Jews-Caribbean Area, for example) and do a Quick Search on those subject headings to find more books on the topic.
Do an Advanced Search on the keyword phrase “Jewish renaissance.” Or try an Advanced Search combining the keyword “Jews” with the keyword “citizenship.”
Do an Advanced Search when you know part of the title (e.g., the words “Jewish communities” and “maritime” appear in the title) but are not certain of the exact title. Use the drop-down menu on the right and select “Title Words.”
Use “Quick Search” to browse a subject heading (e.g., “Jews-History-17th century”), to search a title when you know exactly how it begins (e.g., Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West), to locate a work or works by a particular author (e.g., Bloomberg, Jon Irvine), or to search by call number for a specific book (e.g., 946.0204924 N576j).
Borrowing from other libraries
If you are looking for a book that is not in the UIUC Library online catalog, try searching the state-wide consortium of academic and research libraries, I-Share. The link to I-Share can be found on the blue bar across the top of the “Quick Search” and “Advanced Search” pages in the online catalog. You can borrow directly from any of the sixty-five I-Share member libraries. If you cannot find the book you are looking for in I-Share, you should search it in WorldCat to see if it is available outside the state of Illinois. From the Library Gateway (http://www.library.uiuc.edu/index.html), click on “Other Library Catalogs” and scroll down to the listing for WorldCat. This is a “union catalog” of thousands of mostly North American libraries that share cataloging and holdings records for the books in their collections. If you find a book in WorldCat that we do not have at UIUC or at the other I-Share libraries, you can place a request for the book through interlibrary borrowing (http://www.library.uiuc.edu/irrc/).
III. Finding Scholarly Articles
The two main article databases for history are Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life. One or the other of these databases is usually the best starting place to search for scholarly articles in English on topics in history. America: History and Life covers articles, book reviews, and dissertations on all periods of North American history published since 1964, and in some cases it provides links to the full text of the articles online. Historical Abstracts covers articles, book reviews, and dissertations published since 1954 on all aspects of world history, excluding North America, from 1450 to the present. To search these databases, start at the Library Gateway (http://www.library.uiuc.edu), choose “Online Research Resources,” and type “America History and Life” or Historical Abstracts in the search box (making sure that the active tab is either All Resources or Article Indexes and Abstracts).
Use the Subject Browser in these databases to select your subject term(s) by clicking on the open book icon to the right of the search box. You can narrow your search by adding a keyword or using more than one subject term. For example, in Historical Abstracts select “Jews” as a subject term using the Subject Browser, then narrow your search with a keyword (e.g., “emancipation”). Or construct a Boolean search using the subject term “Jews” and the keyword “Spain.” Your search results display as short records, which you can expand by clicking on “Expand Record” at the bottom of the record on the right. The full entry shows you an abstract or summary of the article. If a particular article is linked to full text, the link is highlighted.
There are several major collections of full-text electronic journals. For older journals, use JSTOR (“journal storage”). This is a digitized, fully searchable version of the full content of nearly 200 scholarly journals from their inception (sometimes as early as the 18th century) to the 1990s (recent issues excluded). To get to JSTOR, go to the “Quick Links” on the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library web site, or go to the Library Gateway at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/ and choose JSTOR under “Article Indexes and Abstracts.” Several major historical journals are included in JSTOR, such as American Historical Review, Journal of American History, Journal of Modern History, English Historical Review, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, and Past and Present.
Because JSTOR is a collection of digitized texts rather than an abstracting/indexing service (and does not employ subject descriptors), careful selection of search terms and fields is essential. In the absence of subject headings, subject searches are built on keywords, so it is prudent to try several different approaches for any given topic. Note that only about 10% of the articles in JSTOR have abstracts, so limiting your search term to the abstracts might cause you to miss relevant material. When a Boolean keyword search produces a large set of results, try using the proximity (“near”) operator to limit the results to a combination of terms occuring within 10 or 25 words of one another.
For the full text of many (nearly 200) recent scholarly journals, use Project Muse. These too are fully searchable. In most cases, only the issues from the last few years are available. Here you will find Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Journal of Women’s History, and several other titles of interest. To get to Project Muse, go to the “Quick Links” on the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library web site, or go to the Library Gateway at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/orr/ and type Project Muse in the search box.
The full text of recent issues of twenty scholarly journals in history is available through the History Cooperative, a joint project of the University of Illinois Press, National Academy Press, American Historical Association, and the Organization of American Historians. This includes the Journal of American History and American Historical Review, Law and History Review, Oral History Review, Journal of Social History, others. To get to the History Cooperative, go to the “Quick Links” on the History and Philosophy Library web site, or go to the Library Gateway, click on “Online Research Resources,” and type “History Cooperative” in the search box.
IV. Examples of Reference Sources
The American Historical Association’s Guide to Historical Literature. Edited by Mary
Beth Norton. 3rd ed. 2 vols. (1995) 016.9 G941 1995 History, Philosophy and
Newspaper Library, Reference
Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Norman Roth. (2003)
Q.909.04924 M468 History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library, Reference Library
Encyclopaedia Judaica. 16 vols. (1972) Q.296.03 En19 Reference Library
Available online from the Library’s “Online Research Resources” web page
(http://www.library.uiuc.edu/orr), type “Encyclopedia Judaica” in the search box
Bibliographical Essays in Medieval Jewish Studies. Lawrence V. Berman et al. (1976)
016.90904924 B471 Bookstacks
Dictionary Catalog of the Jewish Collection. 14 vols. + supplement 8 vols. (1960)
Q.016.296 N42d and Q.016.296 N42d sup. Reference Library
American Jewish History: A Bibliographical Guide. By Jeffrey S. Gurock. (1983)
016.973004924 G966a History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library
International Bibliography of Jewish History and Thought. Edited by Jonathan
Kaplan. (1984) 016.90904924 In82 History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library
Jewish Autobiographies and Biographies: An International Bibliography of Books and
Dissertations in English. By David Zubatsky. (1989) 016.92009292 Z81j
History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library
Jewish Americana: A Catalogue of Books and Articles by Jews or Relating to Them
Printed in the United States from the Earliest Days to 1850. (Hebrew Union
Coillege-Jewish Institute of Religion). (1954) 296 H353m Bookstacks
Reader’s Guide to Judaism. Edited by Michael Terry. (2000) Q.296.03 R227 History,
Philosophy and Newspaper Library, Reference Library
Judaica Reference Sources: A Selective, Annotated Bibliographic Guide. By Charles
Cutter. 2nd ed (1993) 016.90904924 C981j 1993 Reference Library
The Jews in America, 1621-1970: A Chronology and Fact Book. By Irving Sloan.
(1971) 325.25693 Sl5j Oak Street Facility
Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Edited by Alan Charles Kors. 4 vols. (2003)
Q.940.2503 En192 History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library
Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Edited by Micel Delon. 2 vols. (2001) Q.940.253
En19 History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library, Reference Library
Jüdisches biographisches Archiv/Jewish Biographical Archive. 661 microfiche (1994)
MFICHE 296.092 J898
© 2006 Mary Stuart