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Library research and historical essay help

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How do I find appropriate sources and get started writing my history essay? What are some search techniques for finding articles?

How do I:
-decide on a topic
-search for articles
-find the articles in the library
-research the essay
-write the essay

Here is an example essay question, which could be for a term paper in a first year Canadian History course:

"World War I has been described by many historians as a significant event in Canada's history. Write a 2000 word essay in which you discuss the historical significance of some aspect of Canada's role in World War I. Make a clear argument about whether or not you feel this aspect is historically significant to Canada. Use information found in articles from scholarly journals to back up your arguments with examples. Be sure to cite your sources through the use of APA style. See the professor if you need help with this assignment."

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1.) Be sure that you understand the question. Break down the essay question into key phrases, define the key words. Understand exactly what is required of you for the assignment - the length, the number of sources expected, etc.

2.) The most important thing to understand for this question is the meaning of "historical significance". Ask yourself, was this event important to the people of Canada - did it change lives, change history?

3.) Ask the professor to clarify anything about the assignment that you have confusion with.

4.) Learn how to cite your sources in the style indicated by your professor (APA in this case). Style guides explain how to cite your sources and avoid plagiarism. Buy the style guide that you use most - learn how to use it. Libraries will have most style guides in the reference section. Online style guides are not trustworthy, unless you subscribe to the official online guide itself.

5.) Examine the services that are available at your university library in terms of online databases. You must search the online databases for articles on your topic, and then make a list of the articles that you want to locate, with precise information on the journal issues which contain them. Then you have to find those journal issues in your library.

6.) In order to find the journals in your library, you need to become familiar with the online public access catalog, or OPAC. An OPAC is a computer catalog that contains a listing of the entire library collection. All libraries have computers to access to the OPAC.

7.) Many OPACs grant access to the catalogs from more than one library. Your library will likely have inter-library loan and document delivery services which will provide you with articles and books from other libraries. Ask your librarian about these handy services. It is essential for you to start looking for articles early, just in case you need to use these services.

8.) Before you can really start searching the online databases or the OPAC for articles, you must have a suitably narrow topic to search for. It would be pointless to enter "world war I" into the search box of an ...

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