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Research Help for History Students: Secondary Sources - Books

This guide has been designed to help history students with research.

What makes a good book?

History is known as a "book-discipline."  Unlike other disciplines, history still relies heavily on books for research and information.  However, there are some things to keep in mind when looking for books for your paper.  Not all history books are of equal value and authority, so here are some ways you can "evaluate" the books you are considering using for your research.

The flow chart is not intended to be the absolute authority in deciding the reliability and usefulness of a book, but rather something to help you ask the right questions about your source.  As always, if you use the flow chart and are still unsure, you can always check with your professor or with a Reference Librarian.  

Secondary Sources Flow Chart

To view with captions, click here.

Secondary Sources - Books

Secondary Sources Flow Chart – Books.  Written/published in the last 40 years?  No.  Try to find something more recent.  Written/Published in the last 40 years?  Yes.  Does it have footnotes/endnotes or a bibliographic essay or a note on sources?  No.  Published by a University Press?  No.  Published by any of these publishers?  [These are some other scholarly, mainstream presses (other than a university press) that are acceptable:  Knopf, NYRB, Basic Books, Bloomsbury, WW Norton, Harper Torchbooks, Hill and Wang, Longman.  This is not an exhaustive list of other reputable publishers but it is a good place to begin.  Remember, if you ever have doubts, check with your professor or with a Reference Librarian.]  No.  Probably not a good source.  Try again.  Written/Published in the last 40 years?  Yes.  Does it have footnotes/endnotes or a bibliographic essay or a note on sources?  No.  Published by a University Press?  No.  Published by any of these publishers? Yes.  Probably a good source, but check with your professor.  Written/Published in the last 40 years?  Yes.  Does it have footnotes/endnotes or a bibliographic essay or a note on sources?  Yes.  Published by a University Press?  Yes.  This is a solid source for your research!

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