Most historians publish their work in books. So, for many topics in history, your best starting point is a good recent scholarly book. The easiest way to find that book is to ask someone else who is knowledgeable about your topic -- for example, your junior seminar instructor or spring JP advisor. But a thorough search of the library catalog is also essential. Here are some tips on finding books about historical topics in the Princeton University Library Main Catalog.
Once you have a book in hand, read it. Alas, there are no shortcuts to this part of the research process.
While books are very important, historians also publish their work in articles in academic journals. And the easiest way to find journal articles is to search a bibliographic database that covers your topic:
When you consult books or articles in the library, you will encounter footnotes or endnotes that provide citations to other works that may be of interest to you. When you wish to find that other work in the library, it is necessary to understand what type of publication is being cited. You will need to use different tools to find different types of material.
Fortunately, the citations offer important clues to tell you which kind of material is being cited.
Journal articles: Journals are issued in numbered volumes and issues within those volumes (for example, all journal issues published from January-December are in volume 12; each monthly publication has an issue number.) Articles in journals are noted with three important pieces of information. The title of the article is in quotation marks, the title of the journal is in italics, and the volume and issue number are given. The numbers following the colon are page numbers. (You may see a citation in either of the following formats.) To search for journal articles, type the author's name and the article title into "Articles+".
Newspaper and magazine articles: Newspapers and popular magazines usually do not have volume and issue numbers. Therefore, the citation only indicates the date of the newspaper. The title of the article is in quotation marks, the title of the newspaper or magazine is in italics, and the date is given. The numbers following the date are page numbers. To find a newspaper article, search for the name of the newspaper in the Catalog, then follow the links. Consult a librarian if you need help.
Books: Scholarly books are called "monographs" when they are published as stand-alone titles (not part of a series.) The clue that a monograph is being cited is that the title is in italics, and place of publication and the name of the publisher are given. To find a monograph, search for the title in the Catalog. The number after the parenthesis is a page number.
Chapters in Books: Some books are not written by a single author, but rather are collections of chapters by various authors. The person who collects the chapters is called the editor. The clues that a chapter is being cited is that the chapter title is in quotes, the editor is named, and the book title is in italics. To find a chapter, search for the title of the whole book in the Catalog.
Book in a series: Some books are part of a larger set; for example, a cited work could be the fourth volume in a series. The clue that a book in a series is being cited is that a volume number precedes the page number. To find a volume of a series, search for the title of the whole series in the Catalog.
Scholarly books are often desirable for thoroughly researched and documented information. Many are published by University Presses (e.g., Princeton University Press, University Press of Mississippi). This list also shows some important scholarly presses, but is not exhaustive.