This page contains enriched content visible when JavaScript is enabled or by clicking here.
Banner Image

United States History

A research guide, organized by time period, of United States history from the pre-columbian period to the cold war era

Your Librarian

Pamela Contakos's picture
Pamela Contakos
JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.
Contact:
Phone: 413-662-5542
Text: 413-241-6662

Welcome to the U.S. History Research Guide

This guide is intended for MCLA students who are conducting United States history research. Below is an overview of how this guide is set up and what kinds of information the different resources contain. Depending upon what kind of research you are doing you may want to focus on some resources more than others.

left arrow Use the blue tabs on the left to navigate through the different research areas and topics available in this guide. When you click on a tab, you will notice that the different sections of the page will appear nested under it in grey. You can either click on these to jump to a specific part of the page, or simply scroll down to look at all of the available resources. 

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch with me

General Resources Page

You'll notice that this guide is organized by time period from the pre-columbian period to the cold war era. The resources on those pages are specific to those time periods. However, many of the library's resources are appropriate to any United States history time period. These links are gathered on the general resources page

Databases - Here you will find a list of recommended databases for doing history research. JSTOR, Google Scholar, and Academic Search Premier are some of the best places to start. You may also want to get an ecard from the Boston Public Library so you can access their electronic resources as well.

Books - Books are a great way to do historical research. Since most of these books are heavily researched, you can get an in-depth account of a topic in one place. In addition, the references can help you to find specific research on your topic. If you want to broaden your search beyond the MCLA collection, I recommend WorldCat, which will search hundreds of libraries across the country and offer you the chance to request a title on interlibrary loan.

Websites - Primary resources are an important part of history research and luckily, there are many digital  U.S. history primary resources available on the internet. In addition to primary resources, there are some secondary resources listed that provide good research information.

Background Information

Most pages in the guide feature a link to "background information." You may be asking yourself why you'd take the time to look through some background information that you aren't going to cite in your paper. Here's why - if you take 15-20 minutes to do some background research before you start looking for your sources, you'll be able to find things faster and more efficiently. How?  By reading a broad overview of your topic before you start, you pick up on keywords, names, and ideas that you are going to see in your scholarly research. By taking some time to read about it in a more simplified and broad manner than most research articles are, you can quickly pick up on what it important to your topic and help narrow or broaden your research question.

While you are reading through the background jot down ideas of keywords to search for in the databases, as well as key names, places, etc. on a text document on your computer so you can refer to it later.

Gale World History in Context

Gale U.S. History in Context is featured on most of the pages in this guide. That's because this resource can give you a look at the many different kinds of resources on that time period of U.S. History. As you can see from the screenshot below, the pages give you an overview of the time period and a number of different resources from academic journals to primary resources to biographies and more. 

These pages can be great to get ideas on what aspect of the time period you want to research, see many primary documents from that time period, and start gathering research.

Don't feel you need to stay on the page that is featured. Use the search box found on every page of the database to find something more specific to your topic.

american revolution topic page

Books

As I stated above, books are a great way to do historical research. Since most of these books are heavily researched, you can get an in-depth account of a topic in one place. In addition, the references can help you to find specific research on your topic.

On each page I have listed a few books that pertain to that time period as well as a link to the library catalog to see more books on that topic. Look for the table of contents for each book to see which sections pertain most closely to your research area.

Not only are they great research resources in their own right, but the bibliographies are treasure troves of citations to look at for further research. Remember, you can use interlibrary loan to borrow resources that the MCLA library doesn't have.

Documentary Films

Most pages in this guide contain a documentary film from Films on Demand that gives an overview of that time period. Films can be a great resource for research. Like when you read a book and jump around from chapter to chapter, Films on Demand allows you to jump from segment to segment of a video so you can focus on what is important to you. Although I have given particular videos on each page, you can search Films on Demand for other topics. 

When searching Films on Demand, use a broad search. It does not get as specific as article databases, so a broad search will bring you more results.

Overview and Primary Sources

Just like on the general resources page, each time period page contains a list of websites which includes digital primary resources and secondary resources. These websites are chosen for their content and usefulness and have been vetted by the librarians, but as always, use your judgment when looking at websites for research purposes and review how to evaluate sources if you are questioning the source or content.

Creative Commons License