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Undergraduate Research in History


Research Process

This is a guide for Boston College's undergraduate student population in how to approach historical research.

Getting Started

To do put together an excellent research paper in history at Boston College, you likely need a number of components. Here are a set of recommended steps for setting out:

Start by writing out the what, when, where, and who you are looking for. The answers to those four question words (what, when, where, and who) put together as a sentence can operate as your initial research question. They also give you a starting point for how to find both scholarly material as well as primary sources

Next, try running a couple search in some reference works (i.e., encyclopedia, handbooks, guides, and dictionaries) to get a general sense of your project. Note that Wikipedia can be a great place to start and a terrible place to end. 

Once you know more about your topic (e.g., exact dates), try finding a couple academic books on your subject before turning to scholarljournal articles. These should give you context for your research. 

Now, head back to the main History Research Guide to pick appropriate access points to primary sources for your specific project. If, for example, you are exploring 19th century Chile, try access the Latin American History Research Guide for Contemporary History.

Don't forget throughout to keep track of your scholarly and primary sources. Boston College Libraries recommends doing so using the Zotero citation manager, which can help you assemble your citations both as footnotes and in a bibliography.


Secondary: Books

BC Library Catalog

 Keyword     Keyword in Subject

Use the BC catalog to explore the books we have here.

WorldCat Catalog

Books Only   All Formats  

To explore the broad world of books, try the OCLC Worldcat catalog and order the books through Interlibrary Loan.

For additional help

For additional recommendations, contact your subject liaison (Dr. Bee Lehman) at or schedule an appointment with them.