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HIST 205: US 20th Century I (1890-1945) (Yuhl): Secondary Sources

Spring 2024

Search Strategies

Use the resources in the boxes below to search for Books and Articles on your topic. 

But first, read the next few tabs for some important Search Strategies. 


As historical researchers, we might use... 

The Library Catalog [or CrossSearch]

  • May contain many types of sources (scholarly, non-scholarly, multimedia,etc., both secondary and primary) 
  • Covers a variety of subject areas; 
  • Best place to find books for background on your topic. 

General (Article) Databases [or CrossSearch]

  • May contain many types of sources (scholarly, non-scholarly, multimedia,etc., all typically secondary)
  • Cover a variety of subject areas; 
  • Good places to begin research OR to do research on an interdisciplinary topic. May not be specific enough for advanced research. 
Subject (Article) Databases
  • May contain many types of sources (scholarly, non-scholarly, multimedia, etc., all typically secondary)
  • Focus on a specific subject area or areas;
  • Include tools designed for specialized research (e.g., ability to search by historical period).
Primary Source Databases
  • May contain a variety of source types (newspapers, manuscripts, etc.) or be limited to one
  • Typically focused on the basis of one or more of the following: date; place; type of source; and/or topic. 
  • Usually includes tools specifically designed for searching primary sources

In order to choose an appropriate database, you should consider your research needs. What do you need at this point in time? Are you still becoming familiar with your topic, or are you trying to fill specific gaps? 

For example, most primary source collections are categorized by dategeography, genre and/or topic.  So if you are hoping to find news reports on the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza pandemic in the United States, you need a resource that....

  1. Provides access to newspapers; 
  2. Includes resources published in the US; 
  3. Covers 1918. 

Need help selecting a database? Consult your professor, or a librarian! 


Any research process begins by figuring out how to search. But, where to begin? 

Spend a few minutes thinking about what words could be used to describe the topic. Be as  specific as you can. 

For each of the words you listed, think of other words or phrases you could use that mean the same thing.

Use AND and OR to make your search more or less specific! This will give you more sources to choose from.

  • When you use AND, a database will look for resources that use all of the words you entered.
  • Use OR between words that mean the same or similar things, or that you are equally interested in.

If you aren't finding much, try...

  • Rephrasing. See if you can find even 1 or 2 relevant articles, note what subjects are listed for them, and use these to try again.
  • Broadening your topic, date range, geographic area, etc. 
  • Switching tools. Sometimes you just need a different database! 


No piece of research stands alone; each is part of a broader scholarly conversation in that topic/ field. These resources have clues that you can TRACE, if you know how to look! 

Terms Check the abstract, subject terms and article for concepts and terms that you can use for your future searches.

Reported in Is the journal where the article was printed relevant? Try searching for other articles from this journal.

AuthorWhat else has the author(s) published on this topic? Search the databases for their other publications

Consulted by- Check Google Scholar to see which articles or books have cited your sources, and to find
more-recent research which builds on your original information.

Evidence- Check the references list (or bibliography) to see what previous research this resource is drawing on. From here, you may wish to consider: 

- Previous articles or books published on your topic
- Other authors who have published on your topic
- Journals where your topic is frequently discussed

Tools for TRACE-ing: 

Find Books, Ebooks & Book Chapters


CrossSearch is the Libraries' multi-search "discovery" tool. CrossSearch searches a cross-section of journal articles, newspapers, CDs, images, and many other types of resources available through the libraries. It is also our main library catalog -- the tool you use to find books, journals, films, and other items physically located in the library, as well electronic versions of those items. 

To leave out individual articles and focus on things like books and films, you can use the Catalog Only limit in CrossSearch. 

Watch our video tutorial 📺  to learn more about CrossSearch! 


Try searching for books using a very basic keyword search. Books tend to be on broad topics, so the terms you search with should be broad, too! Once you've found a few books that look interesting to you, you can use clues from the books to help you find other books. For example.... 

  • Call Numbers. Books on similar subjects are in similar areas of the library.

  • Vocabulary. Check the records in the library catalog for vocabulary in the tables of contents, titles, descriptions or other information that you might use for future searches. 
  • Subjects. Every book in our catalog is marked with at least 1 "tag" that tells you what the book is mostly about, and links together other books on that same topic. You can click on the tags to find a list of all other books using that tag. 


Books at Dinand Library are arranged by Library of Congress Call Number.

  • Reference books are in the Main Reading Room.
  • Call numbers A through G are on the upper (Mezzanine) level.
  • Call numbers H through Z are on the lower (Ground) level (with a few exceptions).
  • and TR call numbers are located on the main level in the Visual Arts Wing.
  • Oversize books (with a "+" in the call number) are shelved at the end of the normal section for that letter. 

The Stacks Guide handout attached here has more information about how the stacks are organized, and the best places for you to look. 

You can also watch our Call Numbers video tutorial 📺 to learn more about how call numbers work. Or, check out the Library of Congress Classification Outline for a detailed breakdown of our call number system. 

And of course, you might also find books you'd like to read at other libraries -- read more about Interlibrary Loan on the Access Options page. 


To search for e-books located at Holy Cross, use CrossSearch.

Then, use the Resource Type limiter in the side navigation to focus your search on e-books. 

You may also want to search in our specific e-book collections: 

When searching within a specific ebook collection, you will be able to search the full text of each book allowing more detailed searching. For example, you may search the library catalog and not find any titles on your topic, but a search in ebrary might find a book with one chapter focused on your topic.

Accessing Ebooks:

In most cases, your best option is to use the "Read Online" feature for our e-books. Most academic e-books do not work with devices that you might use to read personal e-books, such as a Kindle or Nook (believe me -- this frustrates librarians too!). There is software that you can download onto a PC or iPad, but this can be difficult to use, so if you have a stable internet connection, I recommend reading online. 

However, if you would like to download the software, or if you are having trouble accessing any particular e-book, please feel free to contact us ( or see our e-books guide linked below: 

NOTE that most e-books do have limits on printing. Each publisher has different functionality and rules for downloading and printing ebooks. 


Locating book chapters that you may want to read can take a little more time. Here are some creative ways that you might find book chapters: 

  • CrossSearch -- some, but not all, of our books have tables of contents in the catalog that you can check; 
  • Google Books typically have limited previews, but if you can see enough to locate a helpful chapter, we can get you a copy; 
  • Similarly, previews; 
  • Google Scholar sometimes includes citations for book chapters (and searches across Google Books); 
  • Databases (some, but not all, include book chapter citations specifically; America History & Life is one); 
  • Citations in bibliographies of articles, e-books, or other books that you may have checked out before we closed. 

You can also try searching WorldCat, which searches the collections of libraries around the world (including ours!). Sometimes the information about a book is listed differently in WorldCat, allowing you to find sources that you would never have pulled up in our own catalog. 

Each of these strategies can be used to....

(1) Find the titles of book chapters in our own libraries; or 

(2) Find the titles of book chapters held by other libraries, which can be requested on Interlibrary Loan.

Requesting Book Chapters:

For instructions on how to obtain book chapters that you would like to use, see the Access Options page on this guide. 

Find Sources on the Web


There are many questionable sources of information on the internet -- but there are also some really great ones, if you know where and how to look. 

Google Site Search is an invaluable tool for locating sources on the web which may be scattered across disparate websites. 
  • site:*.gov pandemic* will search for references to a pandemic or pandemics across US government websites. 
  • site:*.org pandemic* will search the same on .org (non-profit) websites, which will hit many libraries, museums and other cultural heritage institutions (as well as some advocacy organizations, so read critically for bias);
  • site:*.edu pandemic* will conduct the search across educational websites. 
 Government websites offer a wealth of sources and information, but can be very unwieldy to navigate. Google Site Search can allow you to search a site more efficiently. For example, if you were hoping to find what the State Department has to say about coronavirus, you could use coronavirus to search the State Department website for that information.
Just remember to carefully evaluate your sources: 

 WHO is the author? How are they qualified? What bias may they have? 

 WHAT is the source? Is it a research report? An entertainment piece? An opinion essay?  And what does this tell you about the source's audience, purpose, and potential bias(es) or shortcoming(s)? 

 WHEN was the source published or updated last? Is there information which seems out-of-date? 

 WHERE was the source made available? Who publishes it, or hosts the website? What is the domain extension?

The publisher and/or domain can help you determine a website's origin. For example, .gov is the domain for United States government sites and .edu is for US Educational institutions. Note that not all .com sites are unreliable and not all .org sites are reputable -- .org simply means that the website is for a non-profit group. 

 WHY was this source created? What is the purpose and audience of the source? Who benefits if this source reaches and/or successfully convinces readers? 

 HOW was this source created? Does it refer you to its sources of information, and/or link you to other credible sources? Can you determine if the original information is represented accurately? 


Find Articles


Historical Research

Social Concerns - Class, Race, Gender Identity, etc. 

Physical & Mental Health:


Databases focused on a particular subject area (often called 
subject or subject-specific databases) often come with special features geared towards the needs of that subject area. 
Historical Period Search: 
One such tool can be found in the Historical Abstracts and America History & Life databases. Most databases will allow you to search for articles published within a certain time-frame, but this is not as useful if you are trying to locate information on a specific historical era -- you won't be looking for (secondary) sources published in the 1800s! 

These databases include Historical Period information for each article, allowing you to search for articles about a specific time period.  

Combining Databases:

You will sometimes find that you need to search multiple databases to get a complete range of information on your topic. For example, if your topic crosses national borders, it may not be enough to search only Historical Abstracts or America History & Life alone. 
Many of our databases are made by the same company, and some companies allow you to search two or more of their databases simultaneously, through a single interface. In EBSCOhost databases (which includes the Historical Abstracts/America History & Life tools as well as AAS Periodicals), you can do this using the Choose Databases option: 

Note: It is generally best not to mix types of databases in the same search.  For example, it is generally best not to search America History & Life (secondary, scholarly sources) at the same time as the AAS Collections (primary sources), partly because it will produce confusing search results, and partly because the most effective search strategies and terms will vary widely between secondary and primary sources.