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History Research

This Library Research Guide is designed to provide a starting point for students researching history topics. For further assistance, please visit or contact a reference librarian.

Reference Books

Why use Reference Books?

Locating background information in general and subject specific encyclopedias and dictionaries and other reference resources will help you put information in context.

Consulting reference materials will help you:

  • Get an overview of the subject.
  • Note key concepts/developments.
  • Identify significant authors.
  • See a chronology/timeline.
  • Discern connections/interrelationships with other developments.
  • Develop a list of search terms.
  • Obtain primary sources.
  • Use the bibliographies to locate other information on your topic.

Below are some suggested resources to get you started. Search the Library Catalog to find more titles of interest or Ask a Librarian who can recommend resources for your specific topic:

Search the Bentley Library Catalog & Ebook Collections

With over 154,000 books & 8,000 DVDs & Videos in the Bentley University Library's Collection, the Library Catalog is a great place to find primary and secondary sources for your project.

  • Search tips are available to help you formulate a more relevant search query.
  • Possible keywords you can use to find primary sources include: Sources, Personal Narratives, Diaries, Correspondence, Documentaries, Interview(s), Letters OR Testimony.
  • Look in the appendices & exhibits of books to view excerpts of diaries, interviews & facsimiles (primary sources). 
  • The Bentley Library Catalog also includes a number of government documents (primary sources).
  • You can also look in the bibliographies of books you find to identify other sources of information you will want to explore.

WorldCat Catalog -- Search for books beyond Bentley lets users search the collections of thousands of libraries around the world. Users can search for popular books, music CDs and videos. Users may also find article citations with links to their full text, authoritative research materials such as documents and photos of local or historic significance and digital versions of rate items that are not available to the public.

When you find titles of interest, you can use the Bentley Library's Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service to retrieve books, articles and even DVDs.