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HIST 455: Race in the Americas

If you need help, please contact Mike McIntosh, Liaison Librarian at 778.782.5043 or or Ask a librarian.

The Library Website - a few pointers!

Key Points

Research Guides - It's a good place to start with any subject you are researching.
Library Catalogue - Remember these steps three easy steps 1) Search by Keyword 2) Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs 3) Use the subject headings for that book to find similar materials. You may want to stry using the Advanced Keyword option
Article Indexes and Databases - Access databases by subject if you aren't sure which database to use. Remember that the Liaison Librarian for History can always give you instruction in a particular database. You may want to explore databases outside of your subject area such as those for Sociology or Urban Studies.
SFU Library Style guides - This page is very helpful and contains our new and imrpoved style guides as well as pointers on citing and writing. Also be sure to review the Library's page on Plagiarism or take the tutorial.

Getting What You Need From the Library Catalogue

Use the Library Catalogue to find books owned by SFU Library.

Before searching the Library catalogue or databases, think about your topic. Break down your topic into concepts or keywords. Think of synonyms for each keyword or concept.  Keep your mind open to new or alternative words that describe your topic. Create search strings that can either broaden (using OR) or narrow (using AND) your topic.

Here is an example of a search string using BOOLEAN operators (AND and OR) to get the best results. My topic is an "Chicago: the history of a segregated city"

ie. chicagoAND segregation (remember the term AND ensures that both terms will be in the library records that appear) - 20 results

you could also try to broaden your results by using synonyms or word variants:

i.e. chicago and (segregation or racism or diversity) - 112 results

Remember your three steps 1)Do a keyword search 2) Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs 3) Use the subject headings for that books to find similar materials. Subject headings are terms that have been assigned to each book. They are extremely useful for locating books on the same subject regardless of the terminology used by the author. Using subject headings in your search can lead to more accurate results but it's almost always easier to start with keyword searching first. For example:.
If you click on this subject heading you will find other books that have critical information on this topic.

Pluralism (Social sciences) -- United States.

Multiculturalism -- United States.

Ethnic neighborhoods -- United States.

Discrimination in housing -- United States.

United States -- Race relations.

United States -- Ethnic relations.

Databases:  Secondary Source and Primary Source

Every database is a slightly different animal, you improve as a researcher each time you go outside of your safety zone. For example you may want to try databases in other subject areas such as Political Science or Sociology. Also remember not to limit yourself to only fulltext databases, most of the databases at SFU will give you the option to find the article either in print in the Library or in another electronic database. Click on "Where Can I Get This?"

Secondary Sources:

America: History and Life:

  • the best search engine for academic journal articles from History journals focusing on American and Canadian history
  • it also includes history books and PhD theses/dissertations
  • start with a keyword search for your topic from the advanced search screen.
  • click the title of the article to see a short summary of the article, Subject Terms, etc.(remember you can click on the subject terms to combine them and make a new search)
  • click the "Where Can I Get This?" button to find out how you can get the article: (a) online, (b) in print on the 6th floor, or (c) order it from another library
  • to narrow a search to a specific decade, use the Historical Period limit (at the bottom of the main search screen); here you can limit by specific dates or eras.
  • The Search History feature saves all of your searches so that you can go back and look and previous searches
  • Create your own personal list of articles by "tagging" them
  • Remember to save citations and use the export options if they are of interest.


  • Note that this database defaults to a basic search. There is also an advanced search option to the right of the basic box. I would suggest using this or if you are building long search strings it may be helpful to use the expert search. Every article in this database is fulltext but there are some restrictions on the years that are available.

Academic Search Premier If you were going to learn to use one database in university this would probably be the one. It is very multi-disciplinary and carries a great deal of fulltext.

You may want to try Google Scholar but remember to access it through the Library homepage to get maxiumum results.  Don't forget to look at the "Cited By" link to find related articles.

Primary Sources:

Black Thought and Culture More than 100,000 pages of monographs, speeches, essays articles, and interviews written by leaders within the black community from earliest times to 1975, illustrate the evolution of what it means to "be black."

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories  More than 100,000 pages of personal narratives, including letters, diaries, pamphlets, autobiographies, and oral histories, providing a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to North America. The materials begin around 1840 and extend to the present, focusing heavily on the period from 1890 to 1920.  Use keyword searching or browse by country of origin.

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930 Part of Harvard University Library's Open Collections Program.  Select "Browse/Topics" for an outline of the major subjects in the collection, including the arrival of immigrants, attitudes toward immigrants, education, and employment. Highlighted themes include contextual essays and cover such subjects as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the immigrant press, Scandinavian immigration, the settlement house movement, and the work of the Dillingham Commission.

Chinese in California, 1850-1925  This collection documents Chinese immigration to California with about 8,000 images and pages of primary source materials. Items are drawn from collections at The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley; The Ethnic Studies Library, University of California Berkeley; and The California Historical Society, San Francisco.

Educating Change: Latina Activism and the Struggle for Educational Equity  Includes videos of interviews with Ramona Medina (1918- ), Socorro Gómez (1951- ), and Yolanda Almaraz (1951- ). The "Collection" section includes photographs and other sources about the walkouts from Coachella Valley schools in 1976, as well as related issues such as the farm workers movement, bilingual education, immigration, and the Chicano/Mexican American civil rights movement.

American Memory - Library of Congress  Provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

Globe & Mail Canada's Heritage from 1844
Searchable full-text of the Globe and Mail from 1844 to 2001. Includes major events in Canadian history, plus thousands of images, advertisements, and political cartoons dating back to the pre-confederation era. Covers major news in Canada and around the world during this period, including every image, advertisement, classified ad, birth and death notice and full content of the Report on Business section since its inception in 1962.

Historical Newspapers
Full page and article images of histroical newspapers including: The New York Times (1851-2003) The Wall Street Journal (1889-1989) The Washington Post (1877-1990)

Also, remember to check out the SFU Primary Sources Research Guide for a full list of SFU resources and web sources.

** Remember to check for email options in each database. **

Click here to get a full list of databases in History.

A Few More Hints and Tips:

You may want to consult News Sources for up-to-date information on your topic.  Consider searching our Historical Newspapers database for contextual information and suggestions for keywords.

Political or alternative sources may also be of interest, such as the Alternative Press Index.

You may want to explore databases outside of History, browse the suggested databases for Sociology or Urban Studies to see what other resources may be relevant for your topic.

Some useful websites:

Finally at this stage in your university careeer you may want to consider using some of the Library's more advanced research tools such as a citation management tool. Citation or reference management tools collect your journal article, book, or other document citations together in one place, and help you create properly formatted bibliographies in almost any style — in seconds.  Citation management tools help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse.

Don't forget: you can always Ask a Librarian for help