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Modern American Civilization since 1877

This webpage provides resources to help you find more information on the themes and topics of the course.

Most of the databases on this page are restricted to UW students, staff and faculty. These are marked with a lock UW Restricted. To connect to these databases from home you will need to first click on the Off-Campus Access button in the upper-right hand corner and login with your UWnetid.

Have questions or need research help? Please contact Theresa Mudrock, the history librarian, via email at

Start Here to Find Background Information


Encyclopedias and other reference sources can provide background information and can be used to identify key people, events and dates which can then be used as search terms for finding additional information. More importantly, because encyclopedias often cover the major issues surrounding the subject, they can help you narrow your research from a broad "who, what, where, when" topic to a "how or why" question. Many also provide a jumpstart on your research by listing related readings.

Two searchable collections of encyclopedias are UW Restricted Gale Virtual Reference and UW Restricted Oxford Reference Online.


Start Here to Find Books


Non-fictional books can provide both an overview and indepth analysis of a topic, event or person. Many books will include footnotes and bibliography that can lead you to other research/writings on the topic.

Book reviews can be useful when evaluating a book or to get a quick synopsis. Use the databases listed under "Finding Academic/Scholarly Articles" to find book reviews.

  • UW Libraries Catalog - holdings of the UW Libraries. Best used for known-item searching especially journal titles and ebooks and when you want to find just what is available on campus or in a specific branch of the UW Libraries.

  • UW WorldCat - version of the catalog that simultaneously searches the UW Libraries Catalog and other libraries in the region and worldwide, also includes some citations to articles. Best used for topical searches and for requesting books from other libraries.

Start Here to Find Academic/Scholarly Articles


Academic articles, those published in scholarly journals, are the bedrock of most academic disciplines. In the field of historical research, they are considered secondary sources. They provide an indepth analysis of narrow topics. Prior to publishing, articles are vetted through a process called peer-review. Most academic articles include footnotes which can lead you to primary sources (and additional secondary sources) on a topic.

To find the actual article (either in print or electronic), use the Check for UW Holdings button available on most databases to locate a copy. If there is no button, search the UW Libraries Catalog for the title of the journal.

Articles from journals which the UW does not own can be requested via Interlibrary loan.


Start Here to Find Books that are Primary Sources


In addition to the many books that are secondary sources; the UW Libraries has books that are primary sources. These include books written during the period for your topic (i.e., during the 1920s), books written by participants, published collections of correspondence and other personal writings, memoirs and reprints of primary source material.

    Search the UW Libraries Catalog using the following search tactics:

  • Limit your search by publication date.
  • Search for books written by key people or organizations.
  • Use special subject terms that designate primary sources: personal narratives, diaries, correspondence, interviews, sources

  • Example:
      world war 1914-1919 and correspondence
    • civil rights and interviews
    • vietnam war and personal narratives

Start Here to Find Newspaper Articles


Newspapers are a primary source providing a first rough draft of events. Since most newspapers are local in scope, there is good coverage of local issues. Newspapers also provide a good feel for the time period.

Most of the older newspapers do not include indexing. Usually you will need to browse through issues of a newspaper to discover its content.

Newspapers can be found in the Microform and Newspaper Collections (mcnews) on the ground of Suzzallo. The best way to check and see if we have a specific newspaper on microfilm is to use the card catalog located in mcnews. For more current newspaper coverage (generally from the 1990s onward) use the databases linked from the News subject page.

Help: Analyzing Newspapers & Newspapers


Start Here to Find Magazine Articles


Magazines are similar to newspapers. Popular magazines (news, fashion, sports, etc.) provide a good feel for the period. Unlike newspapers, there is indexing to identify specific articles on topics. Since most magazines are national in scope, there is limited coverage of local topics.


Start Here to Find Government Documents

congressional report    

The UW Libraries has an extensive collection of federal, state and local government documents. These documents are usually primary sources and can include census material, annual reports from governmental agencies and congressional hearings.

Most government material is housed in the Government Publications section on the ground floor of Suzzallo Library. Librarians there can help you find material you need.


Start Here to Find Websites

Helix May 1969    

The Web is a growing source for primary sources dealing with U.S. history. The sites listed here have substantial collections of primary sources dealing with American history.

See Using Primary Sources on the Web for information on finding and evaluating history websites. See History of the Web for links to other history-related websites.


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Created by: t.mudrock
Last modified: Monday March 02, 2009 (mudrock)