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HIST 242: British Society and Empire 1763-1901 (Conley): Secondary Sources

Fall 2023

Books, E-Books & Book Chapters

CrossSearch

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! 


Search Tips:

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. For example, if you search for books on the East India Company, you would see pretty quickly that many have call numbers either in the DS460s (history), or HF486 (commerce). This means you can easily go to these sections of the library and look through the books in person! 

  • 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. For example, if you click on the tag --India > History > 18th century.-- you would find all of our books marked as being about India in the 18th century. 

Locating Books in the Library

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 Your Sources page. 

Searching for E-Books at Holy Cross

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 E-Books: 

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 (libref@holycross.edu) 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. 

Other E-Books: 

In addition to our collections, you can use a BPL eCard, available to all Massachusetts residents and resident students, to access e-books via the Boston Public Library: 

Reference Sources (for quick consultation)

Find Articles

Databases for Historical Research

Recommended General Databases

E-Journals: 

In addition to the research databases, you can use the Libraries' E-Journals Search to look for articles in specific journals. 

This can be a useful strategy when: 

  • Your professor has recommended specific journals that address your topic; 
  • You notice that the same journals come up frequently while doing your research;
  • You have a citation for a specific article that you would like to read (see the Find Full Text tab for more).  

Just make sure not to rely too much on one or two specific journals. To get the broadest perspective possible on your topic, it's best practice to use multiple sources. 

Historical Period Search
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. 
 
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.  

Search Strategies

How Searches Work

Some research tools -- Google and other web searches as well as certain databases -- conduct what is called a full-text search, which scans every word of the document(s) being searched from beginning to end. 

Others, including the majority of our research databases and the library catalog, conduct what is called a bibliographic or metadata search. These tools scan only the metadata, or descriptive information about the documents they contain -- titles, abstracts, subject keywords and other info. This is why searching for sentences or entire phrases often works poorly in the research databases, and why Google produces so many more matches. 

So which do you choose? 

bibliographic search will bring you fewer results, but will be tailored to results that mention your terms in the descriptive information (and therefore, are more likely to be relevant). 

 full text search will bring you a greater number of results, but more of them are likely to be irrelevant (for example, if your search term appears only once in the document in an off-hand mention). However, it might catch some articles that you might not see otherwise, and may help you find articles whose bibliographic information uses different terminology to describe your topic. 

You may want to experiment with tools that conduct both kinds of searches, to get the widest range of resources on your topic. 

Choosing the Right Search Tool

There are three main categories of databases that you may encounter while doing historical research:


General (Article) Databases 

  • 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-Specific (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, ephemera, manuscripts, etc.) or be limited to one, but all are of the primary source genre. 
  • Typically focused on the basis of one or more of the following: date; geography; type of source; and/or topic. 
  • Usually includes tools specifically designed for searching primary sources (e.g., chronological browse; ability to narrow by geography; pointers linked from introductory essays; etc.) 

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? 

Always consider the limitations of your topic. For example, if you are researching European history, you won't get far searching for secondary literature in America: History & Life!  This is even more important when searching for primary sources. When selecting a primary source database from our collections, you should try to identify one that matches your topic based on...

Chronology, topic, geography or genre

For example, if you are hoping to find news reports on the London Blitz, not just any primary database will do! You need a resource that: 

  1. Provides access to newspapers; 
  2. Includes resources published in the UK; 
  3. Cover the period 1940-1941. 

Need help selecting a database?

Consult your professor, or a librarian! 

General Keyword Tips

In general:

  • Use keywords or brief (2-word) phrases instead of sentences -- one or two for each part of your topic.
     
  • Use concepts and other nouns as your keywords.  Think of words that are likely to be used in titles (or that you have seen in titles).
     
  • When you find a good source, look at its References or Works Cited list. That will often lead you to other useful primary and secondary sources.

If your keywords aren't turning up many results, you may need to:

  • Try thinking of synonyms or other ways of phrasing your topic. If you can find one or two relevant articles, check to see what subject keywords are listed (or look for other clues in the text) and try to build keywords from there. 
     
  • Try a broader search (broader topic, broader date-range, etc.).
     
  • Try a different database.