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HI 3903: Historiography and Historical Methods

What are secondary sources?

Secondary sources are works that provide commentary on historical events.  They are typically written by scholars and incorporate primary source documentation in order to analyze and interpret past events. Most historians publish their work in books. So, for many topics in history, your best starting point is a good recent scholarly book. 

To find historiographic essays, books, and articles, consult our Online Catalog, WorldCat and journal article databases (such as Historical Abstracts & Full Text), by using "historiography" as a Subject term. 

To find book-length bibliographies on a topic in library catalogs, use the advanced search to look for "bibliography" as a Subject and your topic as a Keyword.

Resources for Finding Secondary Sources--Books

Resources for Finding Secondary Sources--Articles

To find individual articles from a wide-variety of journals, the easiest place to begin is with the electronic databases. By using the databases listed below, you can find either article abstracts or full-text articles by conducting an author, title, keyword(s), or subject search. 

To access the full text of an available article, just click on the PDF or HTML link.  If there is no link to the full article, click on the "Find It" button to verify whether MSU has access to the item in either print or electronic format through another database.  If MSU does not have access to the article, it may be ordered through Interlibrary Loan (

Resources for Finding Secondary Sources--Dissertations

Doctoral dissertations and master's theses can be helpful sources for identifying both primary and secondary sources.  If you can find a dissertation/thesis that closely relates to your topic, look at the bibliography included at the end for a list of relevant sources that the author used in his/her research.