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Course: History 1, Africa (2024): Finding secondary sources

What is a secondary source?

A secondary source is one that was created after the event by someone who wasn't there. Examples include books, journals, magazines and websites. It isn't one that is secondary in importance!

You can review the research instruction from the fall in Module 6: Working with Secondary Sources or check out our latest presentation Launching Research from Research Questions.

For your paper you need to find scholarly sources. The slides below tell you the difference between a scholarly and non-scholarly source. If you're not sure, ask your teacher or a librarian.


Print books

Other ways to locate books online

You can find books online:

  • Open Library - can be good for older books and more obscure titles. You will need to create an account to access these books, and this is free and easy.
  • Google Books - be careful! Not all books in Google Books are full text, but you can use this to check if it's worth trying to find it elsewhere.

Finding journals and magazines

The best place to look for journals and magazine articles for your research paper is through the UHS library databases (a database is an organized collection of pre-selected resources):‚Äč

Leveraging Google

Using the GoogleScholar feature enables searching of scholarly work only and will turn up a variety of articles from databases. If it is available to you there will be a link to the right of the result. If it not immediately available, you can search in the SFPL databases or ask a librarian for help.  

Scholarly source?

You will probably be asked to find at least one scholarly journal article. But how do you know if an article you find is scholarly? Look at the chart in this presentation to help you work it out. If you're still not sure, ask a librarian or your teacher.

Tips for finding secondary sources

  • While you're reading your reference article and primary source, keep a list of keywords to search for.
  • Try broad terms eg Arab Spring and narrow terms eg Tahrir Square
  • Look at the bibliography at the end of the reference article - those might be good sources.