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Popularizing Science: Library Resources

Resources for research; History16-294

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#1 Tip: use subject heading hyperlinks

  • Use the "More like this" subject links within individual records to see other items classified under the same heading. While you will most likely start your search using keywords, it is also useful to know subject headings. Subject headings are standardized tags that describe the content of an item and will provide you with much more specific and relevant results.


Here are a few subject headings to get you started. Follow them to find many more books on the same topics.

Medicine -- United States -- History | Medical innovations -- United States -- History | History of Medicine -- United States | Complementary Therapies -- History | Science -- Social aspects | Battle Creek Sanitarium


Primary sources

Primary sources are generally created by a participant in, or direct observer of, an event. They are usually first-person sources, and they reflect the observer’s or participant’s point of view. Examples are photographs, books or articles published during a time under study, recorded or transcribed interviews, government documents, films, letters, diaries, works of art, and published reports of experiments conducted by scientists or social scientists. Primary sources do not have to be used in their original form, however. They may be reproduced electronically, printed or published later and still be considered primary sources.

Secondary sources include interpretation or analysis of events by an author who was not present. This is often done by studying primary sources. Secondary sources are a step removed from an event or work of art or time period. Examples include books and articles, documentary films, reference books, and textbooks, and these may be printed, on microfilm, on DVD, or digital.

In different fields, typical examples of primary and secondary sources can vary, but in history a primary source might be a handwritten letter held by a library’s special collections department or the text of the same letter printed in its entirety in a published book. Or it could be a contemporary newspaper article reporting on an event. A secondary source could be an article or book that uses that letter or newspaper article as one source in which something about the life of a person or an event can be drawn. Both primary and secondary sources are important, and either or both types may be appropriate for historical research.

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Creating annotated bibliographies

Skim each article or the introduction to each book before you decide to use it. You may decide that it wasn't as appropriate for your topic as you had originally thought. If you do decide to use it in your bibliography, take notes as you read to help you when you go back to summarize it. You may want to keep track of the following details:

Thesis: What is the author's thesis or main point? You may find a one or two sentence thesis near the beginning of the piece, or a section labeled "Conclusions" near the end. 

Methodology: How does the author support his or her work? Is the evidence weak or strong?

Special features: What makes this piece particularly interesting or useful? Are there charts, pictures, or tables that are helpful? Is the list of references comprehensive and up-to-date?

Audience: For whom was the piece written? Also consider the tone and language used to decide if the piece was written for a popular or a scholarly audience.

Create a complete citation for each work you have read. Some writers like to use note cards to keep track of their reading, while others prefer to use citation management software like Zotero or EasyBib. 

Write your annotations. An annotation should be relatively short, generally less than 150 words, and should not repeat any information found in the citation itself.

Depending on your assignment and the focus of your bibliography, your annotation could be descriptive or evaluative. A descriptive annotation describes the item and sometimes summarizes its main points. An evaluative annotation compares the item to other items on the same topic and tells other researchers whether or not it is useful or important.

Finally, assemble your annotated bibliography. Depending on the number of citations you wish to include, you may want to divide your bibliography into more specific subtopics to make it easier to read. As you decide which works to include, remember the overall focus of your bibliography and try to include only works that will help your readers to understand the subject.

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Credo Reference

Find Articles

Use these databases to find articles from magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals.

Google Books and Hathi Trust