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The History Keepers: Library Resources

A guide to resources in the Yale Library system for students enrolled in the History Keepers program.

Orbis and Quicksearch

Orbis is the Yale University Library’s online catalog. It can be a powerful tool for finding both primary and secondary sources on your topic, especially using the Advanced Search tab. 

Quicksearch is a tool that combines searching across Orbis, Morris (the Yale Law Library's online catalog), and Articles+ (the library's licensed databases search interface, which includes scholarly articles, newspaper articles, and other primary and secondary sources). Quicksearch does not offer an Advanced Search feature. In addition to helping you find items, Quicksearch is a great way to explore over 1,000 licensed databases to identify ones that might be promising for your research topic. Once you've identified a database by name you can go directly to that database (using the "Find Databases by Title" link in the Research box on the library's website) in order to take advantage of advanced search features within the specific database.

Orbis and Quicksearch are among the search tools available on the Yale University Library's webpage.

In Orbis:
  • Search for organizations or people as Author to find all the materials available at Yale that were produced by them.
  • Search for organizations or people as Subject Browse to find all materials available at Yale that are about them.
  • Use the Subjects listed in the Orbis record (they’re clickable) for an on-topic item you've retrieved in order to search for related Orbis records.
  • On the Advanced Search tab, add a publication date range (using Year:) to your search in order to find materials published during the time period you are studying. Or limit to a particular collection on campus, such as the Beinecke Library.
  • Use a question mark (?) to truncate a word on which you are searching to find all variants. For example: searching for colleg? will retrieve college, colleges, collegiate, collegial, etc.
  • Use a percent sign (%) as a wildcard to search on possible variant spellings of words. For example: searching for organi%ation will retrieve organization and organisation.
  • To find microfilm housed in the Microform Reading Room in Sterling Memorial Library and elsewhere, use the Advanced Search tab and choose Microform in the Medium: pull-down menu in addition to the keywords you search.

Remember that there will be an astounding number of published materials that can serve as primary sources for your research just sitting in the stacks of Sterling Memorial Library (SML). You can limit your Advanced Search in Orbis to materials physically housed in the SML stacks or at the Library Shelving Facility (LSF) by choosing “Sterling Memorial Library (SML)” in the Location: drop-down menu.

Managing your citations: RefWorks and Zotero

RefWorks and Zotero are two tools commonly used on college campuses to keep track of sources and citations, and produce bibliographies. Whether or not to use a "citation manager" is up to you, but these tools will make your scholarly life easier. 

Visit the Yale Library's Citation Management website to learn more about these tools. Or go directly to RefWorks or Zotero. You can also send citations to your RefWorks or Zotero account by using the Save/Export function in a database such as Articles+, JSTOR, etc.

Primary Sources at Yale

Databases of Primary Sources

The Yale University Library subscribes to approximately 1,700 databases for the use of Yale students and faculty. Many of these contain primary sources, some of which may be relevant to your History Keepers research project. The following is just a small selection of databases we'll look at in our introductory session on February 7th. Consult with your mentor or any Yale librarian or archivist if you would like assistance in singling out promising databases for your research.

LexisNexis Academic

  • Access full-text documents from over 17,000 credible information sources in news (3,000+ world newspapers, 2,000+ magazines, broadcast transcripts, wire service updates, etc.), the law (federal and state court decisions, federal regulations, etc), and business (business news sources, SEC filings, etc.)


  • Another very large, newspaper-heavy database, with a stronger collection of international news sources (in English and other languages). Factiva is owned and produced by the Dow-Jones Company, so their own publications (such as The Wall Street Journal) are often ranked higher in results.

Proquest News and Newspapers

  • Searches thousands of full-text newspapers, primarily but not exclusively in the United States, including both major urban papers and smaller alternative press publications. Also includes some major African-American newspapers, such as The Chicago Defender, The Los Angeles Sentinel and The New York Amsterdam News. Covers much of the 19th and 20th centuries. See the Publications list provided on the database page for a full list of publications covered.

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998

  • A very large collection of both large- and small-circulation newspapers, including the Black Coalition Weekly from New Haven, CT. 

African American Periodicals, 1825-1995

  • The full text of hundreds of African-American periodicals, magazines and journals.Search for topics or keywords by date, by subject or place of publication.

Finding Secondary Sources

There are a variety of databases, some licensed and some on the open web, that you can use to find scholarly and other articles that may help you to contextualize your History Keeper research project. These are the ones we'll go over briefly during the January 31st library session.

America: History and Life

  • The essential index for American and Canadian history material.

Historical Abstracts

  • The essential index for historical material from outside the US and Canada. May be especially relevant if you are looking at views on U.S. history by scholars from other parts of the world.


  • A great resource for finding secondary sources for your topic, but does not have the most current 5 years of many scholarly journals.
    • Look Journals up by their title in Orbis (change “Keyword” to “Journal Title” in the drop-down menu on the Basic search tab) to see if Yale subscribes to another database that may have the most recent issues.
  • Also a great resource for primary sources published in the 19th century. Use the Narrow By: Date Range feature in JSTOR’s Advanced Search to find materials published in the time period you’re studying. For example, here are results for a search on education AND negroes with a Narrowed By: Date Range of 1830-1860.

ProQuest Dissertations

  • Records for 3 million dissertations, over 1 million available in full text. Bibliographies on dissertations are fairly comprehensive for the topics they cover and a good source of pointers to both primary sources and secondary literature on a topic.

Google Scholar