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History Research Guide

Choose a topic that is interesting to you and which will work within your assignment's parameters. Usually your research goal is to locate published scholarship (books and journal articles) to read on your topic.

Often, instructors will also ask you to find and use primary sources. Remember to evaluate the accuracy of your resources, and think critically about their arguments. When in doubt, check with your History instructor.


First, read a good summary of a history topic in a history encyclopedia, like those listed below. Second, once you know the basics on your topic, search for more published scholarship, such as books in CUNY+ or other catalogs.

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries & Guides

  • American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature (Ref. Z6201 .A55 1995, 3rd edition)
  • Dictionary of American Biography (Ref. E176 D56 1958-1964, 11 vols.)
  • Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece (Ref. DF16 .E52 2006)
  • Encyclopedia of India (2006)
  • Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (Ref. E468 .E53 2000)
  • Historical Dictionary of Iraq (2007, 2nd edition)
  • New Encyclopedia of Africa (2008)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Ref. DA28 .O95 2004, 61 vols.)
  • Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History (Ref. DK14 .M6, 55 vols.)
  • Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia (Ref. HQ1147 .E85 W66 2006)

Find Books

CUNY+ Catalog
Search for books at the Queens College libraries, as well as other CUNY libraries.
New York Public Library
Search CATNYP, the catalog of the research libraries at NYPL. Books at the research libraries are non-circulating and must be consulted on site. NYPL has one of the premier research collections in the country and is open to all New York State residents.
Other Library Catalogs
Search the library catalogs of regional libraries such as the Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, New York University, Columbia University, etc.
Search for books in the national catalog for the United States and Canada. Includes holdings from libraries in other parts of the world, primarily European or English-speaking.


Articles, Scholarly

A journal article is written by a scholar or an expert, and provides a detailed analysis of a topic. It is written in the specialized language of a scholarly discipline (such as History). It documents the resources the writer used by providing bibliographic citations such as footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography so a reader can check or repeat the research the scholar has completed.

A scholarly journal is edited by scholars, and any article published in the journal has usually been approved by the author's peers or by referees (other scholars expert in the subject who serve as editors or readers and critique the article before it is accepted for publication). This is why most scholarly journals are referred to as a Peer-Reviewed or Refereed journals. Use the following databases (including indexes) to search for journal articles on a topic. You can use other Databases depending what topic you are researching. Databases useful for finding History articles follow.

Academic Search Complete
Comprehensive source for scholarly journals in all academic disciplines. More than 8,000 publications are indexed, and full text is provided for 4500, 1990 to date. Most are peer-reviewed. Searchable cited reference sources are provided for selected titles.
America: History and Life
American Studies, Africana Studies, History, 1964 to date.
Black Thought and Culture
Africana Studies, American Studies, History, 1600 to date.
Cambridge University Journals
Multidisciplinary, 1990 to date.
HAPI (Hispanic American Periodicals Index)
Authoritative, worldwide source for information about Central and South America, Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean basin, the United States-Mexico border region, and Hispanics/Latinos in the United States, 1970 to date.
Historical Abstracts
Africana Studies, World History, Jewish Studies, Women's Studies, 1954 to date.
Project MUSE
Journals in History, Drama, English, Language & Literature, Philosophy.
Research Library
Abstracts to articles from magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, and trade periodicals with citations of book reviews. For a broad range of topics in all subject areas.
Social Sciences Citation Index
Citations from thousands of scholarly journals in the social sciences. Tracks cited references to determine what journal articles cite or reference other journal articles, 1971 to date.
Social Sciences Full Text
English-language journals in the major social sciences. For topics such as criminology, family, public administration, social work. Abstracts to journal articles and citations to book reviews.


Articles, Non-Scholarly

CQ Public Affairs Collection
History, Law, Political Science, American Studies, 1900 to date.
CQ Researcher
History, Law, Political Science, American Studies, 1991 to date.
CQ Supreme Court Collection
History, Law, Political Science, American Studies, 1700 to date.
CQ Weekly
History, Law, Political Science, American Studies, 1983 to date.
Discovering Multicultural America
A multimedia reference source providing essays, documents, and images on the culture, history, and society of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native-Americans, 1995 to date.
Readers Guide Full Text
General interest database. Citations to articles from popular periodicals, such as magazines. Covers current events, news, health, education, the arts, etc., 1980 to date.
Readers Guide Retrospective
Citations to articles from 375 popular, general interest magazines, published in the United States from 1890 to 1982, reflecting the history of 20th century America.


Primary Sources

Primary sources are letters, diaries, documents, newspapers, etc., dating from the time period being studied and are the bread and butter of historians. The code word for primary sources in CUNY+ is “sources.” Therefore, the search “United States and history and sources” brings up more than 750 primary sources found in the Queens College Libraries. Examples follow:



Newspaper articles can be used to explore a potential topic, or may be a necessary part of the source material a History researcher needs to read because of the nature of the topic, for example, a question dealing with a local region, such as New York City. Any newspaper article contemporaneous with the time period you are studying is considered a primary source.

Ethnic Newswatch
English and Spanish newspapers and magazines of the ethnic minority and native press, 1990 to date. Provides unique viewpoints from the Arab-American, Asian-American, Jewish-American, Latino-American, Native-American, and other communities.
The best way to access New York City newspapers is through its Sources section. Instructions:
  1. for Country select United States
  2. for Topics, select General News Sources
  3. for Region, select New York State
  4. for Trail Publication Type, select News, then Newspapers
A list of New York State newspapers is displayed from which you can select New York Post, New York Sun, Newsday, etc.
New York Times
Full-text of the newspaper since 1980, images NOT available. Updated daily.
New York Times Historical
Full-page and full-article images, with searchable full-text from its first issue. Provides access to every page of the newspaper for the years 1851–2004.



Dozens of core journals in history. Cover-to-cover full-text from a journal's first issue until about five years ago.
Social Science E-Journals
Large selection of history and related journals from the Library's master list of E-Journals.


Data & Statistics

Statistics for local areas of New York City and New York State. Demographic data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 census. Health, immigration, socio-economic data since the 1990s.
Social Explorer
United States demographic data, maps, and reports taken from the Federal Census, from 1940 to 2000.


Style Manuals

Be sure to use one to help organize your bibliographic notes and citations. Most History professors and professional History journals use Chicago style.

Consult the Citation Style Manuals.



Reports, studies, and data are sometimes available from the major scholarly organizations for the study of history.

American Historical Association
The American Historical Association (AHA) was founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 to serve the broad field of history worldwide. It encompasses every historical period and geographical area and serves professional historians in all areas of employment.
History Associations and Organizations
Links to several dozen regional and local historical associations.
Royal Historical Society (UK)
Organization of American Historians
The largest learned society devoted to the study of American history, founded in 1907.
WWW-Virtual Library: History: Societies & Associations of the World


Research Institutes

Reports or studies written by research institutes or non-profit think-tanks can also be useful.


Web Gateways

Continue your search for reports, studies, primary sources, data, statistics, and information by browsing these sociology web gateways.


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