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HIST495: Introduction to Historical Interpretation (History Honors): Basics

Guide for history honors students.

Subject Librarians

Erica Bruchko

U.S. History

Phone: 404.727.0657

Chella Vaidyanathan

World History

Phone: 404.727.5049


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Building a Bibliography of Secondary Sources

As serious researchers and historians at the Honors level, it’s important that you begin to branch out from basic search strategies and think more broadly about the wide range of ways in which you can build your honors bibliography of secondary literature.  Some strategies you’ll want to consider appear below ...


1.      Research is not a solitary activity – it’s a collaborative exercise!

Talk to a wide circle of fellow academics about your topic, including your thesis advisor; Honors section leader; other professors - perhaps outside the History Department or even outside of Emory - who have done research on your topic; fellow students, AND (last but not least!) librarians who specialize in your area of research who can help you unearth both secondary and primary sources both at Emory and elsewhere.


2.      Follow the trail of footnotes and bibliographies in everything you read

Old-fashioned footnote chasing is still one of the best research strategies, even in the digital age.


3.      Search beyond discoverE, and Emory’s holdings

  • The WorldCat “metacatalog”: lists the holdings (books, manuscript and archival collections, government documents, and other materials – but NOT articles) of the great majority of libraries, especially in the United States but also outside of the U.S.

  • The Center for Research Libraries:  makes available hard-to-find scholarly resources to Emory and its other institutional members. Its outstanding collections include more than 500,000 titles and 3.5 million volumes of research materials rarely held in North American libraries. Most CRL materials may be obtained through Interlibrary Loan.

  • The Digital Public Library of America: A digital library that makes materials available online from America's libraries, archives, and museums.

  • Hathtitrust - The HathiTrust Digital Library brings together the immense collections of over sixty major research institutions and libraries in digital form, preserving them securely to be accessed and used today, and in future generations.

  • Google Books - Search the latest index of the world's books. Find millions of great books you can preview or read for free.

  • National and International Catalogs: many national libraries in industrialized countries now have online catalogs of their holdings, but for developing countries, you may need to travel to the library to learn what they have.  Europeana,  The Library Index (LibDex) , and Libweb all allow you to access catalogs by country or region.


4.      Browse the Stacks!

There’s a reason why books in libraries are organized by subject! Once you’ve located a relevant title in the stacks (i.e. bookshelves), browse nearby shelves to locate other titles relating to the same topic. You can also browse the stacks virtually by using discoverE's browse shelf function - enter all or part of a call number and then scan backwards and forwards through our holdings.


5.      Search core history databases for journal articles and other secondary literature

[Browse or search for other databases via the library’s Databases@Emory page]:

  • America: History & Life (U.S. and Canada) and Historical Abstracts (rest of the world) - key starting points for uncovering relevant secondary literature on modern history, including scholarly journal articles as well as edited monographs, book reviews and dissertations. They can be searched simultaneously or separately.

  • [L’]Annee Philologique - covers all aspects of classical languages, literatures, history, philosophy, art, religion, music, mythology, science, numismatics, and other subjects.

  • JSTOR - you probably know that JSTOR provides full text of journal articles, but it’s a real pain to search, especially by subject!  For journal articles published in the last half-century, try searching America: History & Life or Historical Abstracts instead, because they’re much easier to search and they provide direct links to many of the articles in JSTOR.


6.      Search other subject-specific databases relevant to your research topic

You can discover these by:


7.      Search printed (gasp!) bibliographies and indexes for older literature

Printed bibliographies and indexes (what researchers and librarians used in the Dark Ages before the digital revolution) often cover earlier works that do not appear in online databases and other electronic tools. The following resources are all located in the Reference Collection on Level 2:

  • C.R.I.S.: the Combined Retrospective Index Set to Journals in History, 1838-1974     Reference Z6205 .C18 

  • Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature (1911-   )     Reference Z6205 .H54 (also available from 1997 to present - search by title to access)

  • Serial Bibliographies and Abstracts in History: An Annotated Guide     Reference Z6201 .A1 H45 1986

There may be a print bibliography available on your research topic.  To find these, try a Subject search in discoverE or WorldCat, using a search like

african americans history bibliography
confederate states bibliography


There are also a number of useful bibliographies on broad topics in the History Department study room.


LASTLY – when you are no longer discovering new relevant citations ...
it’s time to stop searching and start reading!
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