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History Research > 3: Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened. Secondary sources include books and articles that analyze events and people, in order to put them into a historical context.

3A: Finding Books in the Catalog

The best method for finding books (including "e-books" that can be read online) is to use your library's catalog. Search by keyword or by subject, as described on the first page of this tutorial. Limit your search by format, as shown in the illustration.

If a book can be read online, there will be a link from the catalog record to connect to the text.

Catalog search for e-book

If a book is available only in print, the catalog record will indicate the location within the library as well as the status (available, checked out, etc.).

3B: Finding Reviews of Books

How do you know you that have found the best sources? Check for scholarly book reviews to understand how they are regarded by professional historians.

Online book reviews on the Web:
Use H-NET Reviews


Research databases:

These are also good sources for finding citations to scholarly book reviews. You may also need to use the library catalog to locate a copy of the journal containing the review in order to read it. Some popular databases available at Ohio State are:

Book Review Index Plus Online (OSU access)
Includes more than five million review citations from thousands of publications, with links to more than 630,000 full-text reviews that may be read online.

America: History and Life (OSU access)
Covers history of the U.S. and Canada. A search for a book review is shown in the illustration.

Search in AHL for review

Historical Abstracts (OSU access)
Covers all branches of world history, political, diplomatic, military, economic, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual history, and the history of science, technology, and medicine.

Google Scholar
A free search tool for scholarly resources. Consider including review or book review withs earch. Access to full text may require a subscription, such as through a library.

European Historical Bibliographies
Search European history topics in subject-specific databases from thirteen countries.


Use H-NET Reviews to locate an online book review of The Oglala People, written by Catherine Price.

[Site opens in new window.]

Pop Quiz

Which of the following is NOT a good source for book reviews:

Correct answer: [NOTE: Score is not recorded]

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