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HIS-270 The Historian's Craft

Research guide for the Historian's Craft




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Getting Started with Books

There are several great places where you can start looking for books on your topic.  

Finding Books with Keywords

As you begin to conduct research on your topic, the first thing you need to do is to identify what keywords you will use to help you find relevant sources.  For example, if your research question is, "What impact did the slave trade have on the early development of Rhode Island?," you may want to start out searching "slave trade" and "Rhode Island" in the library catalog.


*Tip: If you want to just see what is available at McKillop Library, you can select "Salve Regina University Library" in the left toolbar.  However, if you find books or articles that you want and the library does not have access to them, you can always request them through interlibrary loan (

As you search, you should also brainstorm synonyms or words related to your original keywords.  This allows you to find resources that might use slightly different language to describe similar content.  For example, with our previous search, we could also search "slavery," "slaves," "triangle trade," "economy," or even specific Rhode Island towns like Newport.  Each search would generate a unique result list, although some results would undoubtedly overlap.  As you search, make sure to keep track of your search terms on a piece of paper.  This helps you avoid repeating searches you've already done in the past.

Finding Books with Subject Terms

Once you locate a relevant source for your research, look under the "Description" section of the catalog record for the subject terms.  A subject term is a standardized word or phrase that describes the main idea of the source.  These terms are hyperlinked in the catalog.  If you select one of these hyperlinked subject terms, the catalog will generate another result list with additional resources that share the same subject term.  As with your keywords, make sure to take note of especially helpful subject terms as you conduct your research.