HIST 300 - Introduction to Historical Thinking

Class library research guide for Introduction to Historical Thinking.

Library Research Guide

Secondary Sources: Finding Books and Journal Articles

Use secondary sources, like books and academic journal articles, to place your artifact in historical context. 


Use Search It to locate books about Kansas or your artifact owned by K-State Libraries. Use keywords that describe:

  • a social group of which your artifact may have been associated: Kanza, Kaw Nation, settlers, exodusters, boy scouts, etc.
  • the physical location with which your artifact may be associated: Clay Center, Green, Kansas, Great Plains, etc.
  • an event or activity with which your artifact may be associated: German migration, education, Bloody Kansas, farming

Research Companions

Research companions (or guides) are academic encyclopedias. They provide overviews of historical periods or events and cite other books and journal articles with more information. Locate research companions in Search It in a couple of ways:

1. Locate titles by searching for:

2. Search for your topic and the terms like: companion, guide, daily life. You may need to broaden the search from your topic to a time period or concept, like: sports AND daily life

Some relevant titles for your research include:

Journals About Kansas

Kansas History is the main scholarly journal about Kansas history. Until 1978 is was known as Kansas Historical Quarterly. Follow the links below to locate print issues in K-State Libraries or search for articles online.


Search these databases for scholarly articles related to history and cultural objects. Kansas History and Kansas Historical Quarterly can both be searched in America: History and Life. 

Primary Sources: Kansas and U.S. History Collections Online

These free sites are good starting points for locating primary source materials about Kansas and Kansans. 

While not as comprehensive as the Kansas Historical Society or The Kansas Collection, these sites offer unique primary resources about the history of Kansas and Kansans. 

Non-scholarly site

Library Databases

K-State Libraries subscribes to these databases comprised of primary sources.

Researching Critically

Placing your Kansan in historical context requires that you critically evaluate your sources and how you search for information. 

Evaluate your sources

Read or examine multiple sources. Multiple sources explore a topic from different perspectives. 

Fact check your sources. Do other sources independently confirm the information? Why might sources disagree? If there is only one source for your information, ask why. 

Follow the references. Does your source cite references or otherwise indicate where they got their information? If not, why not? If yes, read some of those sources so that you can evaluate their information. 

Note: Sources may disagree with each other. This is okay, that disagreement helps us understand history. Be concerned when a source is discredited, particularly when the facts presented are disproved or the research process is questioned. 


Evaluate your search method

If your search is not finding a of information, evaluate and revise your search by considering the following:

Your search reflects what you know about a topic. The keywords you search for will change as you learn more about a topic. Your first search may be simple:

  • a person's name (Corinthian Clay Nutter) 
  • occupation (teacher) 
  • social role (civil rights activist) 

After studying your first results, your next keywords may look at a theme: educators and segregated schools  

Change your search method to change your search results. Increase your search results by:

  • searching in several databases
  • following the citation trail -- what works did the author cite; what works cite this article
  • searching for different formats: books, journal articles, films, photos, manuscripts 

Identify the scholarly conversation(s). The sources you locate are part of a conversation among researchers and scholars in an effort to better understand our history. Identifying a conversation helps determine what has already been written about a topic and if there are known gaps in our knowledge.  The conversation may entail:

  • interpreting an historical event/person/trend
  • research methods
  • theoretical approaches 

Look at how your topic is discussed by other researchers, what language they use to describe it, what experts they reference, what topics they consider related to your topic. Try new searches using these concepts.