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History: Getting Started

A guide to research on historical topics

Need a topic?

The first step when starting your history assignment is identifying a topic to research. Here are a few tips for identifying your topic:

  1. Review the chapters of your history textbook. Which chapter interests you the most? What is it about?
  2. Conduct some exploratory Google searches on your topics of interest. 
  3. Read a little bit about the topic to gauge your interest level. If it's not interesting, choose another topic. You want to choose a topic that sparks a desire to learn more.
  4. At the library, browse the books in the History section upstairs. Look for classes D-F (see shelf labels) of the Library's General Collection.
  5. Ask a librarian. They will ask a few questions to learn what history topics interest you.


Use encyclopedias to get an overview of your research topic. The information you gather from encyclopedia articles will help you to define and focus your research.

Tip: Pay attention to key concepts and terms. You can use them to refine searches in other collections and databases.


Search for books and other materials in the library collection, as well as articles, e‑books, and videos from the library's research databases.

Or go directly to Primo Search for more options.

Using Primo Search to find books, articles, and more

Use our Primo Search to find books and more.

  • In the Primo Search box, type the keyword history plus your topic keywords describing a geographic place, historical time period, or person from history.
  • From the drop-down menu to the right of the search box, select the option Library Catalog to find books only. Click Search.
  • View your search results for interesting titles. Click the title to view the full record for more details.
  • If your search results include articles and books, you can filter your search to only books by selecting Material Type - Books. See Refine My Results on the left side of your screen.
  • When you find interesting titles:
    • Write down the call number (ex. DS805 .K633 1983) and use it to find print books on the library shelves.
    • If you see a record with the call number Available Online, this is an electronic or e-book.  
      • For immediate access to e-books, click the book's title to open the full record.  
      • Then click View Online for the link to view the book on your computer or electronic device.
      • Off-campus users will be prompted to enter their UH Web Login for access.
Primo Search Tips
  1. Learn more about a book while searching Primo
    1. Look at the Primo record when you find a promising title in your search results. The full record will have more details about the book, such as a table of contents or a book synopsis. 
  2. Virtually browse the Library's collection
    1. When you find a print book (you'll know this when you see a call number in the record), scroll to the bottom of the record to see the virtual browse feature. The cover title images represent the books on the library's shelves. Click the cover image for a book's description. You can now browse the shelves at the library from your electronic device.

Physical Browsing

Browse the following areas in the library's Reference and General collections.

  • D - World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
    • D - General
    • DA - Great Britain
    • DAW - Central Europe
    • DB - Austria.  Liechtenstein.  Hungary.  Czechoslovakia
    • DC - France
    • DD - Germany
    • DE - Greco-Roman world
    • DF - Greece
    • DG - Italy
    • DH - Low Countries.  Benelux Countries
    • DJ - Netherlands (Holland)
    • DJK - Eastern Europe (General)
    • DK - Russia.  Soviet Union.  Former Soviet Republics
    • DL - Northern Europe.  Scandinavia
    • DP - Spain
    • DQ - Switzerland
    • DR - Balkan Peninsula
    • DS - Asia
    • DT - Africa
    • DU - Oceania (South Seas)
    • DX - Romanies
  • E - F - United States.  Americas

Library 411

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