Skip to main content

How to Conduct Research

Initially, students are often over-dependent on encyclopedias and The Reader's Guide-to Periodical Literature when they use the library. These are what they are taught to use in high school, but they may be of little use in college work. While some encyclopedias (especially the signed articles in the Britannica) may be of assistance, the Reader's Guide simply does not index the sort of journals written or consulted by historians. History students seeking aid in understanding factual material, examples of good history writing, facts for their reports, and/or evidence for their arguments, should instead consider the following aids:

Their Textbooks

These are too often overlooked, despite their selection by course instructors and ease of use by students. Most contain useful indices and revealing introductions, which may be used even if not specifically assigned. Like encyclopedia articles, textbooks are particularly useful in getting started on an idea and learning basic facts and interpretations. On the other hand, textbooks and encyclopedias are almost never used as sources for individual facts. Instead, let them steer you toward more specialized works. In addition, textbooks are not usually cited in the bibliography (unless specified by your instructor).

Handbooks for Historical Study

The Loyola/Notre Dame Library has several...

  1. Barzun, Jacques and Henry F. Graff. The Modern Researcher. San Dieg Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.
  2. Frick, Elizabeth. Library Research Guide to History: Illustrated Search Strategy and Sources. Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press, 1980.
  3. Gray, Wood with William Columbus Davis et al. Historian's Handbook: A Key to the Study and Writing of History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964.
  4. Marius, Richard. A Short Guide for Writing about History. New York: Longman, 1999.
  5. Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 6th ed. rev. by John Grossman and Alice Bennett. Chicag University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Historical Reference Works

These books are located in category Reference D and Reference E on the first floor of the library. Important historical reference works include biographical dictionaries, the Cambridge history series (with definitive articles prepared by leading historians), collections of important documents, etc. Consult the reference librarians to learn which reference books might be most useful for your particular topic.

Historical Atlases

These are located on and in the atlas table on the first floor of the library.

Online Databases

The library has several online databases, such as America: History & Life, Expanded Academic Index, Historical Abstracts, History (USA), History (World), and JSTOR, that are available to aid you in your historical research. These online databases are general indices to recent scholarly articles (some of which are available full-text) and books on history. See the reference librarians for instructions on how to use them.

Historical Journals

Our library has an excellent collection of historical journals. Current editions may be found on the first floor, and bound, back issues are on the lower level. A complete list of our holdings may be found in the metal-leafed files located at the reference desk on the first floor and against the wall near the elevators on the lower level.

Books on Historical Subjects

These are shelved (mostly) in categories D-J, and U-V on the third floor of the library. Open shelves allow you to browse to find exactly what you want. Try to choose more recent books over older ones, since more recent historians have access to more data. In addition, they have usually commented upon the evidence and arguments of their predecessors.

For both articles and books, our library's research collection can be supplemented by the collections of a number of other libraries. Students may consider using the Enoch Pratt Free State Library Resource Center/Central Library (at Cathedral and Franklin Streets downtown) or the Milton S. Elsenhower Library of Johns Hopkins University (eleven blocks south on Charles Street). For the Hopkins Library, however, it is necessary to obtain a letter of introduction from our reference librarian. It is also important to note that the Loyola/Notre Dame Library has reciprocal borrowing agreements with the following academic libraries:

  • Baltimore Hebrew University
  • Columbia Union College
  • Coppin State College
  • Goucher College
  • Hood College
  • Maryland Institute
  • Morgan State University
  • Mount Saint Mary's College
  • St. Mary's Seminary
  • Towson University
  • University of Baltimore
  • University of Maryland - Baltimore County
  • Villa Julie College
  • Washington College
  • Western Maryland College

County public libraries are NOT research libraries and are much less useful for college students. Consult the Maryland Union List on microfiche or the individual library catalogs for the precise location of books and journals.

Do not mark in library books. While underlining and marginal notes are very useful aids to study, they are not acceptable in library books. These books are intended for several generations of students; you should take care to pass them on in as good condition as you found them. If you find illicit markings in one of the books you are using, point out that fact to your instructor. Instructors frequently check students' references after papers are submitted; if they find marks in those books corresponding to students' quotations and paraphrasings, then disciplinary action may ensue.


What's New

Visit Student Planning for a list of the courses offered by the History department in Fall 2023. Students wishing to register for a closed (full) course must visit the Academic Advising Website and submit a course override request form (the link will be on the page under Fall 2023 Course Override Requests) requesting an override. Please do not submit your request directly to the course instructor or to the Department Chair. All course overrides are reviewed by the department chair and are only approved if there are extenuating circumstances. The override request will not be processed if there is a time conflict with your existing schedule, you do not have 6th course permission from your advisor, or if there is a financial hold on your account.