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Background or "reference" sources are a great place to start your research and can be extremely useful, especially if you're venturing into a new research area for your project. They include bibliographies, scholarly encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, handbooks, and other works that provide overviews of topics and suggestions for finding both primary and secondary sources.
Oxford Bibliographies offers peer-reviewed annotated bibliographies on specific topics across varied subject areas. Each of these features an introduction to the topic. Bibliographies are browseable by subject area and keyword searchable.
A large collection of resources. The Wiley Companions will be especially useful. Navigate to "Humanities" and then "History" in order to find a detailed listing of titles by subfield.
Note on databases
Databases are collections of digital resources made up of a potentially wide array of materials, such as academic journal articles, historical newspapers, digitized special collections (e.g., rare books, archival papers), and more.
Why databases instead of Google
Academic databases are finite collections, whereas Google (even Google Scholar) searches the whole of the Internet, which is VAST.
Academic databases have better quality control, as they rely on trained professionals to make sure the articles and book chapters are truly scholarly. Google, on the other hand, relies on an algorithm.
Academic databases offer more ways to refine your search, so you get more precise results.
Use these guides to find resources on specific regions or subjects.
Secondary/subject databases in History
Subject-specific databases are a key resource for finding secondary literature, including the latest scholarly journal articles in the field, and the main subject databases for finding historical literature are:
Vended Online Database
The BuildingGreen Suite of online tools provides information on green design. It integrates online versions of GreenSpec, Environmental Building News, and a database of more than 160 high-performance building case studies.
Provides full-text access to IEEE transactions, IEEE and IEE journals, magazines, and conference proceedings published since 1988, and all current IEEE standards; brings additional search and access features to IEEE/IET electronic library users.