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HIST 101: Historical Writing

Searching the Scholarly History Literature

The databases listed below are the ones that are most useful to identify articles in History journals. You might get some books and dissertations as well. They also contain many reviews of books and films. Each works differently, too, so, even though there may be some overlap, you could find something different in each.

Only the first one is purely history. The others are more interdisciplinary but will still be useful depending on your specific topic.

NOTE: As you may or may not have learned in the past, these databases do not work like Google. You might want to watch the short video and heed the tips in the box below this list!

Database Searching in 4 Steps: The Video

Is it really only 4 steps?

Pick a Database by answering these questions:

  • Who do you want to hear from? Which disciplines would have done research in this area? Or, maybe you want to hear from folks working in a certain field? Perhaps librarians have something to say on that topic? Or oil & gas executives? 
  • What formats are you going for? Books? Scholarly articles? Streaming video? Newspaper articles?
  • Do you need current information? Or, are you wanting to search historically?


Construct/Compose a logical beginning search by:

  • Deciding on the simplest, clearest terms for each concept/idea inherent in your research topic; and, then
  • connecting the ideas with AND; and, then
  • separating synonyms with OR; and, then
  • truncating to pick up word variants; and, then
  • enclosing any phrases in quotations.

For example the search pictured below is looking for material on how Muslims are portrayed in popular media:



Revise your first search by:

  • Scrutinizing your search results looking for additional or better terms; and
  • being especially attentive to the words appearing the Subject fields; and
  • making logical use of the Boolean OR; and
  • perhaps, limiting major concepts to the Subject field search (assuming you saw these words/phrases used as Subjects).

Using the example above, I would change my search like this:


Efficiently sort through your results by:

  • Collecting relevant citations using tools of the database; and, then
  • emailing yourself formatted citations; and, always
  • utilizing the Find-It-@-SCU link to locate additional fulltext.