HIST 320 - History of Technology

This guide will help students enrolled in History of Technology to research topics related to the development of technologies.

Library Research Guide

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources interpret historical events within a social or historical context. They rely both on primary sources (to represent the historical event under question) and other secondary sources (to place the event within the context existing research and theories.)

Researchers writing secondary sources may disagree with each other or focus on different aspects of an historical event. Researchers approach historical events through the lens of:

  • the time period in which they are written
  • theories or attitudes like manifest destiny, feminism, critical race theory, colonialism

A more complete understanding is gained when multiple sources are consulted.

Finding Scholarly articles

These databases are the best starting points for finding scholarly (aka academic) articles on historical research topics.

Be sure to search in several databases as they each will include unique journals and cover different publication dates. For example, JSTOR often does not include the most recent 3-6 years of a journal, but often includes issues going as far back as the first volume and issue. 

Find Books

K-State Libraries provides access to print and e-books.

Find Books Using Search It

Use Search It, the search box on the Libraries' home page, to look for book by author, title, or keyword/topic. The default option is to search all of Search It. Use the drop down menu to only search Books & E-Books.

Screen shot showing books and ebook option in Search It

The search results page will show relevant titles. Each title will indicate whether the book is:

  • available online, including a link to access the ebook
  • located in K-State Libraries physical collection, including the location (e.g. Hale Library Stacks, Annex Offsite) and the call number -- the combination of letters and numbers following the location
  • both online and in the physical collection

As an example, the book The Comanche code talkers of World War II is available both in Hale Library Stacks and online.

Screen shot of book information in Search It

Find a Book Located in Hale Library Stacks

For books located in unique locations (Salina Library Stacks, Special Collections Library, Annex Offsite) the full record in Search It states where that location is, or if you need to follow a link to request the item.

Books located in Hale Library Stacks, with a few exceptions like those is Special Collections, show a Map It button on their record in Search It.   Map It icon

The Map It button opens a map of Hale Library, showing the floor and/or stack level where the book is located. The red pin on the indicates the book's rough location. Map It also provides written directions for the floor and stack level location (if needed), plus the item/call number.

As an example, the book The Comanche code talkers of World War II is located in Hale Library Stacks.

The Map It icon opens a map showing the 1st floor of Hale Library, and marks the book's general location in Stack Level A.

Map It for book Comanche code talkers of World War II

Both Map It and the book's record in Search It show the book's call number, which is a combination of letters and numbers (K-State, like many academic libraries, uses the Library of Congress call numbers). Write down or take a picture of the whole call number.

Reading a Call Number

The call number is both the address for the book and a code for the subject of the book.

Reading a call number takes practice for everyone. If you have problems finding your book, ask at the library help desk (in Hale, it's on the 2nd floor.) They will help you find your book!

See the Find Books box for more information about finding books in K-State Libraries, including learning a book's call number and general location.


Every book has the call number on its spine or front cover.

spine of book with call number showing


Books are shelved by call number in alphabetical and numerical order, starting with the first letter (or letters, sometimes there are two.) You will find all books with A call numbers in the same location, followed by the B call numbers, etc.

Call numbers are read in pieces. Example: D810 .C88 M43 2002

1. The first letter(s) are alphabetical. D comes after C, but before DS and E. So: C... D... DS... E. Once you find the Ds, move to the next segment.

2. The second segment is a whole number. 810 comes after 805 but before 8105. So: 80...650...805...810...8105. Once you find the D810s, move on to the next segment.

  • Sometimes there is a decimal in the number. If you can't find your book, make sure you are looking for 810.5, not 8105.

3. The next segment is a combination where you first read the letter alphabetically and then the number as a decimal. C88 comes after B4 and before .D7. So: .B4... .C8 .... .C88 .... .C9 .... .D7 Once you find the D810 .C88s, move on to the next segment.
row of books with call numbers on their spines

4. Usually by this point you are really close to your book, so it can be fastest just to read the titles on the spine. If not ...

5. The next segment is also a combination where you read the first letter alphabetically and the number as a decimal.

6. The final number is the year of publication and is read as a whole number. You usually only need to worry about this if there are multiple editions of the same book.

7. Look at the books shelved near the book you were looking for. They should be on the same or very similar topic. They may also be helpful for your research.

E-book Databases

Some of K-State Libraries databases contain fulltext e-books. Some of these titles can be found in Search It. You can also search in the e-book databases: