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HIST 240 War in the Modern World I

These are resources for students working on the World War II battles assignment in History 240.


This page will give you some tips and advice for how to find materials for your research projects in HIST 240 "War in the Modern World." This page will include some advice for search strategies in your work. The Reference Works page lists the many English-language comprehensive operational histories of the war, generally (but not only) produced by the militaries that participated in the war. This page includes links to two major databases of article literature in history and guidance for doing historical research.

Basic Research Tips

These are a few tips for conducting historical research. Please check out the UO Libraries' "Getting Started with Research" guide for more detailed information.

Background Reference Research

  • Get started by familiarizing yourself with basic concepts and facts about your subject. The operational histories listed on the Reference Works page of this guide will provide much of this information. The Wikipedia entry for your battle will similarly prove helpful, and will frequently include citations for works with further information.
  • Take note of important information: basic timelines, names of major individuals, locations, and military units, and so on to use as keywords for your further research.
  • If there are particular theoretical or interpretative frameworks or concepts used by scholars of your subject, take note of those as well.

Search Strategies

  • Research is a process: You will not find everything you need in the first search. Research requires iterating on your subject. Retry searches if you initially come up with too little material, or too much. Note new keywords and topics you discover as you search and read your works. Pay attention to what is being cited in the works you are reading, and track down the sources they cite for your own work. Give yourself time to search out sources, read those sources, and potentially do further, new searches as you learn more.
  • Keywords: Before any search, select key terms that describe your subject. Proper nouns (people's names, military unit names, battle names, geographical locations, etc.) are strong, but consider other terms that when associated together are likely to describe your topic.
  • Synonyms: Do not stop with your initial keywords. Frequently the terms that initially come to mind are not those used by scholars to describe the event. Consider synonyms for terms ("conflict" for "war," for example) and add those to your list of potential keywords.
  • Subject Headings: Library catalogs and article databases often include specific, formally defined tags to items to link items about similar topics to each other.
    • In the LibrarySearch catalog the full descriptions of titles include a section for "Subjects," which follow the Library of Congress's rules for assigning subjects to books. For example, the Subject for World War II is "World War, 1939-1945." Subjects also combine terms according to formal rules to differentiate specific sub-areas of a subject, to denote a title about a specific location or time period, etc. So, for example, "World War, 1939-1945 -- Canada" is assigned to books about Canada's involvement in World War II. Note the specific subject headings applied to titles you are using for your work.
    • Other resources, like the America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts databases listed below, will also include Subjects, Topics, or similar headings in their item descriptions that are different from Library of Congress Subject Headings, but have a similar function, linking related titles using formal descriptive language. Note the Subjects/Topics/etc. applied in each resource you use.
  • Advanced Search: The "Advanced Search" in LibrarySearch allows you to perform more sophisticated searches as you go. You can combine a Subject Heading with keywords, for example, or an author with keywords (excellent for searching for specific sources produced by a prolific scholar). Get creative and dial in your research focus as you go.

Evaluating Sources

There is a lot of information out there, much of it of questionable value. Where World War II is concerned, there is much information out there marked by strong ideological or nationalist biases, which can lead to misinterpretation or even falsification of events. When evaluating sources make the following considerations to account for these biases.

  • Is the research backed up? Citations exist, in part, to ensure honesty and transparency in our scholarship, allowing us to see where an author found their information, and how they came to their conclusions. For serious research, secondary sources lacking a clear citation system are therefore suspect. This also can apply to works aimed at popular audiences, which may not include formal citations but should clearly identify sources for quotes, statistics, and so on, frequently with links to the original sources. Works that rely excessively on assertion of "facts" without citation or anonymous and/or unidentified quotes are suspect.
  • Who is the author? What organization(s) (a university, a military organization, a think tank) is the author affiliated with, or sponsored the research? Author blurbs and book prefaces or acknowledgments will often explain much of this information, and can help you to situate the work in the larger conversation.
    • Some authors, publishers, research sponsors, etc. use neutral sounding names to hide deep biases or advance palpably false historical narratives. In World War II studies, the Institute for Historical Review is one infamous example, using a neutral-sounding name and professional presentation style to distribute works downplaying or denying the Holocaust. A little time searching for the organization on open internet resources (Google, Wikipedia, etc.) can expose bad actors behind seemingly "objective" works.
  • "Peer Review": The foundation of academic publication is a process called peer review, where publications are sent to other scholars in their field to evaluate whether or not a title meets basic standards. Peer review can be difficult to identify for books, but when searching in article databases like America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts (listed below) you can see whether or not a journal that published an article follows a peer review standard or not, and can even narrow search results to only those from peer reviewed journals. Peer review is not flawless and by no means guarantees that a work is 100% accurate, but it does give you some assurance that the title has met basic standards.

LibrarySearch - The UO Libraries Catalog

LibrarySearch offers a streamlined interface for finding books and other media that combines the collections of UO Libraries and Summit libraries.

Databases for Article Literature

These databases allow you to search article-length literature in history. America: History and Life covers materials about the history of the U.S. and Canada since 1450, and Historical Abstracts covers the rest of the world since 1450.

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