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Historical Research, Methods and Writing: Secondary Sources

A guide to locating appropriate sources for students in HIST2303: Historical Research, Methods and Writing

Using Secondary Sources

Use the OCCC Library Catalog to locate secondary sources (such as scholarly books).  For this class, students should focus on finding scholarly monographs (books.)  Look for the following to ensure the books you find are considered scholarly.  

At a minimum, a scholarly book should have the following characteristics:

  • the coverage of the topic is in-depth on a specialized, specific topic.  The focus will often be fairly narrow.
  • the author is considered an expert; has degrees related to the research; is often affiliated with a university or research institution.
  • has an extensive bibliography (which is an excellent place to find other scholarly monographs AND primary sources.)

A scholarly monograph may also:

  • have been published by a university press.
  • have been written by a single author (watch out for "edited by...")
  • have an index.


WorldCat is a library catalog that includes the holdings of thousands of libraries around the world.  Students should search WorldCat to locate materials not owned by the OCCC Library.  Most items found in the WorldCat database may be obtained by OCCC students via the Interlibrary Loan service, free of charge.

While searching WorldCat, look for the following message:

Borrow this item from another library (Interlibrary Loan)

You may click on the link and fill out a form to request the item be loaned to you by another library.  It is up to the other library to determine how long you may keep the book.  Requests to borrow books usually take around a week to fulfill.

If the "Borrow this item..." link is not present for an item you are interested, you may come into the library and fill out a paper Interlibrary Loan request form.  Please note that if the "Libraries worldwide that own item" number is low, it may be more difficult to fill your request.

Articles from reputable magazines and scholarly journals are available through several Library databases.  You may view all of the Library's article databases on the Find Articles webpage.  

All articles should be evaluated for appropriateness to determine if they are good sources for an academic research paper.

You may find additional article citations via a Google search (or Google Scholar.)  Do NOT pay for access to an article.  Just bring the citation to the Library and fill out an Interlibrary Loan article request.  Most article requests are fulfilled within five days.  There is no cost to you.

Materials not owned by the OCCC Library often may be obtained from other libraries through our Interlibrary Loan service.  Links to request items are available in our most popular databases.  Items may also be requested using a paper form available at the Library Assistance Desk or on the Interlibrary Loan policy page below.