Skip to Main Content

Researching a Historiography

This guide will provide you with information on researching for a historiographic essay, guide you to Pace resources to use for research and link to additional resources that may be helpful in completing your assignment.

Common Search Issues

As you search for sources for your historiography, you will need to complete multiple searches and expect some trial and error. There are common search issues that researchers frequently encounter.


1. Your search returns too many results and there are many that don't relate to your topic. See the example below that brings back more than 15,000 results. 

  • STRATEGY 1: Review the search strategies box below on this page to try and be more specific with your topic. You may be searching for keywords that are too broad so it is matching to too many results. Adding more keywords or changing the wording can help! 
  • STRATEGY 2: Use the limiters within each database to remove results that are not relevant due to factors such as publication date subject, source type and more. See the search strategies box below for examples. 

2. Your search doesn't return many results and it seems like there's nothing available for your topic. See the example below that brings back only 17 results. 

  • STRATEGY: Consider removing one of your keywords to see if that expands your results. Perhaps removing the word "movement" might be helpful below. Or find another word that expresses one of your keywords. Perhaps another worf for "incarceration". 

3. Sticking with one database to fulfill all their needs and not finding enough variety of sources. 

  • STRATEGY: Keep a log of where you search and what you search for. Since you will most likely search over multiple days and sessions, tracking your searches and trying multiple places will give you the variety of perspectives you need. 

If you try the strategies above and are still having issues, you may need assistance refining your topic or using our resources so you can chat with a librarian or consult your professor.

Keywords & Search Strategies

Before you start searching, you should reflect on your research question to identify the most relevant terms to search for. These keywords that you select can greatly impact what sources you find within the databases or on the Internet. 

You may want to start a chart like the one below as you develop your keywords. Each column coincides with a main idea for your research question.  

Table of keywords for the question, "How do social media algorithms impact the increase in extremist rhetoric in America?

Boolean operators can help your searching by expanding or limiting the results. The term is just a another way of describing using AND, OR, and NOT in your searches.

  • In order to use these keyword connectors, you will need to understand the potential relationships between your search terms. Let’s take a look at some examples.
  • Using AND will bring together results for all of the terms together, therefore limiting the amount of search results because they must contain all keywords. 
  • Using OR will increase your results by looking for all of your keywords and combining the results.
  • Using NOT will remove results with those specific keywords from your results.

Boolean Searching

By using an asterisk symbol (*) you can expand your results by increasing the number of spellings of a word that could be acceptable in the search. For example, in the image on the right, instead of only searching for the word "extremism", using the * symbol, the results will include words such as extremism, extremist, extreme and extremists and increase the number of search results. 

This may work better with some words more than others. Using this technique with "social media" would not have the same impact. 

Truncation of *wildcard

Many of the databases in the library include limiters which allow you to focus your search further than keywords or Boolean operators.

With limiters, you can:

  • Limit results to full text
  • Limit results to source types such as scholarly journals or news articles
  • Limit to a specific publication date range
  • Limit to peer-reviewed articles
  • And more, depending on the database

However, too many limiters can do just that – overly limit your results. Consider using basic limiters first such as date. Then review the results and use limiters for strategic searches.

Two screenshots of limiters from library databases

As you read through the sources you find, you'll need to organize the results that are most relevant to your topic.

Strategies for organizing your results:

  • The search chart below can be a helpful way to organize your results
  • You are not just summarizing but comparing and contrasting ideas from across sources
  • For example, two authors might agree on a problem but their research finds different causes. You may want to comment on that gap in the literature in your review. 

Below is a link to access a downloadable copy of the search chart:

Citation Mining

This is a more advanced search strategy but may be helpful for finding sources! In citation mining, you are "searching" within the bibliography, or citations, of a relevant article that you've already found. 

Annotated Bibliographies

One helpful process while writing a large paper with many sources is to collect a few sources you might use in order to summarize them and analyze their potential for your paper. 

Creating an annotated bibliography: 

  1. Review your assignment to determine how your professor would like your annotated bibliography to look.
  2. Search! The search strategies on this page and journal/books pages on this guide can be helpful in locating potential sources.                                                                  
  3. Use the "Cite" button in the databases to copy and page the citations for your sources.                                 Icon by freepik 
  4. Write a paragraph for each citation summarizing, analyzing and determining the relevance of that source to your paper.