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European History Research Guide

How to find books, databases, primary sources, and other resources related to European History.

Search Tips

Not sure how to construct the right kind of search for finding specific eras, events, or people?  Try to focus your search on three keyword concepts:  Event, Text, and Topic.  See examples below.


KEYWORD
CONCEPTS

TIPS EXAMPLES
Event
  • Start with the general event, and then narrow it down to specifics.
  • Look for key people involved
  • Crusades
  • First Crusade
  • Pope Urban II
Text
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • Letters, treaties, diaries (primary source databases)
  • Biographies, scholarly articles, historiography (Historical Abstracts, JSTOR)
Topic Use a topic related to your central argument, such as:
  • Event(s)
  • Country
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Economy or Trade
  • Exploration
  • Reformation
  • England, Great Britain
  • Nobility, monarchy
  • Catholic, Protestant
  • New world, exiles


Then, think about how you can combine your keywords using AND or OR.

So how does this translate?  Let's say you were writing a paper the Reformation. Some of the searches you could try include:

  • Henry VIII AND reformation
  • Reformation AND Great Britain OR England (lower case will work, too - usually you don't need to capitalize)
  • Puritan AND Dutch OR Netherlands

Combining Search Terms

In an "Advanced Search" option, you can connect search terms the following ways:

AND - narrows your search results by looking for two (or more) keywords at the same time.
Example:  "inquisition" AND "spain" gets results that include both terms. Add a third term, for example, AND "moor*" to get even more specific results. (Note that "moor" has an asterisk - this gives you all variations of the word (see Truncation below).

OR - expands your search results by searching for more than one keyword at a time.
Example: "england" OR "great britain" searches for results that include either term.

NOT - narrows your search results by excluding specific words from your results.
Example: "medieval" NOT "gothic" will return results that mention medieval, but does not include "gothic." This option helps you eliminate irrelevant results from your search results.

Tip: use ONE search term per search box.

Quotation Marks

Use these to limit your search to an exact phrase.

Example: "Elizabethan England" limits your search to the topic. (**Try Googling your name, or your professor's name, with and without question marks around the name).

Truncation

You can use truncation to search for all the endings of a word in one search. Most search tools use the asterisk (*), but some use and exclamation point (!) or dollar sign ($). Check the help function if your search isn't working.

Example: Shakespear* searches for Shakespear, Shakespeare, Shakespearean, Shakespeare's, etc.

Wildcard

A wildcard lets you search for different letters in a word. This can be useful to search for plurals and alternate spellings. A question mark is used in place of the letter.

Example: "wom?n" searches for "woman," "women," and "womyn."