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BHS RESEARCH GUIDE: Finding Background Information

Where To Begin?

Once you have developed your topic and identified relevant keywords, you should begin your research by consulting reference resources.  The Library provides access to reference resources in searchable online form, along with reference books.

To search the library catalog online:

1. Go to the BHS Library website

2. Click on the link for the library catalog

3. Log in with your student ID and password

4. Complete a keyword search. A good rule of thumb is to search your topic a minimum of five ways.

Finding a Book

Start with a Keyword search 

Two helpful tips:

  • Use the Boolean operators of AND and OR to connect your terms
  • Use the asterisk (*) to search for variations of a word; for example, deter* will find books that mention the words deter, deterrent, or deterrence.

Examples of good searches:

  • Afghanistan AND (women or female) AND rights
  • (death penalty OR capital punishment) AND deter*
  • Thoreau AND (natur* OR wilderness OR environment*)

When you find a useful book in the catalog, click on the Subject Headings in its catalog record to identify additional books on the same topic.

Using Journal Articles

  • Articles in periodicals often provide the latest news or thought on a particular topic
  • Scholarly journal articles typically analyze more specific topics than books do
  • They are the primary means by which scholars in the natural sciences and most social sciences publish their research

Primary Sources vs Secondary

When searching: 

Search using some of the keywords that describe your subject in combination with one or more of the following terms:

  • personal narrative​
  • letters​
  • correspondence​
  • diaries​
  • memoirs​
  • travelers​
  • manuscripts​
  • archives​
  • records​
  • documents​
  • sources​
  • thesis

Example: immigrants and (letters or correspondence or diaries)

Search Tips:
“And” narrows your results.
“Or” is more and is used primarily with synonyms or related terms. 

The Stuff History is Made Of
Description of Primary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary sources