Indiana State University
Last updated April 21, 2000; comments to

Primary & Secondary Resources
Note: Even though this list was developed for historians, I always liked it because, instead of merely listing the different types of library resources, it gave concrete examples. It's a simple, yet complete, way to demonstrate to students that there is a lot more to the research process than they may realize. It could be adapted for any discipline, and can be further adapted into the current electronic research environment.
The items below are excerpted from D’Aniello, Charles A., editor, Teaching Bibliographic Skills in History; a sourcebook for historians and librarians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Some basic literature searching skills: Secondary Literature

1. Topic Statement: can you describe your topic in <100 words; indicating its historical importance and its intellectual, chronological and geographic contexts; indicating if work in disciplines other than history will be relevant?

2. Subject Headings: can you develop a list of Library Of Congress Subject Headings that will be useful?

3. Books: Can you cite two appropriate books, indicating the significance of each for the topic, commenting on each book’s thesis and quality but also on the sources it is based on, the methodology employed, the nature and extent of its bibliographic apparatus (footnotes, bibliography, bibliographic essay, etc.?

4. Book Reviews: Can you cite two reviews for each of the above books and cite and annotate the book review index(es) used to find them?

5. Essays: Can you cite and annotate Essay and General Literature Index and cite two relevant essays found using it?

6. General Guides to Research and Reference Materials: Can you cite and annotate useful sections of the Guide to Reference Books?

7. Specialized Guides to Research and Reference Materials: Can you identify these (and cite/annotate)?

8. Specialized Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Reference sets: Can you find and cite at least five sources likely to be useful, annotate each, and from each, note three useful entries?

9. Biographical Sources: Cite and annotate such sets as the Dictionary of American Biography (U.S.) and the Dictionary of National Biography (Great Britain), and works on other nationalities or specific groups (women, politicians, etc.).

10. Reference Sources (any other): Can you cite and annotate relevant chronologies, directories, digests and summaries, statistical compilations, geographical sources, etc. Follow the citations and annotation of each source and give three useful entries from it.

11. Bibliographies of Bibliographies: Cite and describe the standard works (Besterman’s A World Bibliography of Bibliographies; Alice Toomey’s World Bibliography of Bibliographies. Then cite and annotate specialized bibliographies of bibliographies found using them, guides to reference sources or LUIS.

12. Topical Bibliographies: Cite and annotate up to three topical bibliographies and, from each, cite a relevant publication.

13. Online Union Catalogs: Use OCLC’s WorldCat and print out relevant citations.

14. Journal Articles: Cite and annotate abstracts, bibliographies, and indexes likely to be useful, and, for each, indicate whether or not it is available (locally or generally) in electronic form.

15. Journals: Cite and briefly describe the scope and special features of three academic journals likely to carry articles on the topic.

16. Electronic Sources: Describe the basic contents of each electronic source available at our library that may be useful to you; from each source cited provide a printout of five relevant citations.

17. Master’s Theses and Dissertations: Cite and annotate sources you will use to identify relevant work in these formats. Use Dissertations Abstracts to printout 5 citations.

Some basic literature searching skills: Primary Literature

1. Books: Cite and annotate the catalogs or bibliographies you will use to identify books published in earlier periods.

2. Magazine and Journal Articles: Same as above; remember to include periodical indexes that provide retrospective coverage or indexes published during the period under study.

3. Manuscript and Archival Collections: Cite and annotate your sources; cite a relevant collection or repository identified through each.

4. Printed and Microfilmed Collections: Include such things as the collected works and papers of individuals and collections of documents focused on a particular event or topic. For microform collections use Suzanne Cates Dodson’s Microform Research Collections: A Guide (Reference Z1033.M5 D6). Cite two printed collections and two microform collections.

5. Newspapers: Cite five newspapers you might consult.

6. Government Documents: Cite a guide that describes the government publications of the nation, state or organization appropriate to your research. Then refer to this source to determine the types of documentation likely to be of use to you and describe the types of material you might consult.

7. Other Categories of Primary Source Material: Describe the types of materials you might use: diaries, physical objects, radio or television tapes, works of art, statistical records (list governmental statistics above), amps, and so forth -- and cite and annotate indexes, bibliographies, books and other sources helpful in accessing them -- from "Bibliographic Instruction in History" by Charles A. D’Aniello, p. 80-84

the following from "Using Electronic Information Sources" by Joyce Duncan Falk, p. 244-246, in D’Aniello (above).
When to Use Electronic Database Searching
[refers to fee-based database searching but considerations could apply to Internet searching as well as online catalogs, indexes, etc.]:
When Not to Use Electronic Database Searching -- actually I’d retitle this section, when to rethink what you need to know and how you’re going about it

Historians and the Research Process [excerpt]:

The library-oriented approach to research ignores one simple truth: It is difficult to codify an inquiry. The process of discovery varies according to topic, period, country, subject, method, and, most important, the researcher’s personal predilections and agenda. Like the best history, good research depends on understanding where one needs to go next in a continuing search to capture some concept, sequence of events, or analytical angle... Librarians need to recognize that research is both a complex and an extremely individualized process, that the literature of a discipline to a considerable extent sorts and indexes itself through citations, and that a researcher may simultaneously be in more than one stage of a project and infrequently conduct a single comprehensive search for anything. Historians should recognize that their research habits could also mesh efficiently with library reference tools, that scholars often depend on librarians and archivists to provide at least information on the location of the materials they need, and that at times the help of a skilled intermediary is essential for finding the most promising channels to pursue. Neither research decisions nor searching skills are mechanical. One must know how to select, when and where to look, and how to combine sources creatively to extract the maximum assistance. (from "Finding and Using Historical Materials" by Jane A. Rosenberg and Robert P. Swierenga, in, p. 57)

Library Instruction & Orientation, Indiana State University Library, Terre Haute, IN


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