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HIST 4314/5314 - American Civil War


This guide is designed for use with HIST 4314/5314 American Civil War

Students will find information on:

how to locate books in the library and via our e-books collections

how to find scholarly journal articles via the subscription databases

primary sources available on the world wide web

who to contact if they need assistance on their research projects.

Selecting a Topic

Selecting a Topic

Selecting an appropriate topic requires thought and preliminary research for available resources.  You need to identify a general area of interest that provides enough available information to allow you to explore your topic and meet the requirements of the assignment.

 Before choosing your topic, review the requirements of the assignment:

  • How long should the paper be?
  • When must the paper be completed?
  • How many sources should be consulted?
  • To what extent should the sources be primary or secondary sources?
  • Can you use sources not held by the Gray Library?

Identifying Sources

Identify Appropriate Sources

 Once you have selected your topic you need to write down key words and names for your topic and its different aspects.  Use both broad and specific terms.  Consult a thesaurus, the Library of Congress Subject Headings (ask at the Reference Desk), and encyclopedias covering your topic to come up with more search terms to help narrow or broaden your topic.

 Use this list of terms to search the resources listed in this guide:

  • library catalog for books
  • newspaper and periodical indexes for articles
  • electronic indexes and databases for books and articles

 Depending on the topic selected, you might wish to consult a librarian concerning government documents resources. 

 Helpful hints:

  • Formulate your topic in the form of a question
  • Look at the quantity and relevance of your sources to see if the topic needs to be broadened or narrowed by modifying the question posed.
  • Write down references for the materials that seem the most promising

 Obtain the Sources

Determine your main sources as early as possible because some of the materials may not be readily available at the Gray Library.  You may need to recall books that are checked out, consult the resources of nearby libraries, or request materials from the Lamar Orange Library are made through the Gray Library catalog and may take a few days.  Both Interlibrary Loan and the recall process take up to two to three weeks.  Interlibrary loan forms are available online via the library home page and at the Reference Desk on the first floor.  Gray Library borrows materials from other libraries for Lamar University students, faculty, and staff.

 Analyze the Sources

 Once you have found your sources you must evaluate and select the most relevant information.  Look at the bibliographies and footnotes of your sources.  These contain key references that you should review to be sure the source is right for your paper.  You may discover that sources you selected are not very useful. 

 If you are not satisfied with the quantity or quality of your sources, you should consult a reference librarian who can assist you in locating additional print or online resources.