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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

History and American Studies: Obtaining Background Material

A research guide to finding books, articles, and other resources in History and American Studies

Using Reference Books

Use Reference books to:

♦  Obtain background material to help familiarize yourself with your topic

♦  Place your topic in historical context

♦  Locate definitions of terms and concepts

♦  Find bibliographies suggesting additional resources on your topic


Reference books are on the first floor of Simpson Library

Use the digitization request form if you need materials from a reference book scanned for you.  No, we will not scan the entire book for you!  

Citing Your Sources

While writing research papers, you may need to:

List your sources in bibliographies or works cited, and

♦ Provide either footnotes or endnotes.

For more help with citations, check this guide out.

Reference Resources

Simpson Library's reference collection is located on the first floor of the library.  Our collection of reference works relating to history is extensive, and the librarian on duty will be glad to help you locate specific sources.  Reference books have the label REFB in the catalog, and history references tend to be in the D, E, and F call number ranges.

You can limit your catalog search to reference materials clicking on LOCATION in the Refine Your Search menu, and then selecting REFERENCE.

Simpson Library's electronic collections also include reference resources, and these may be updated more frequently than print resources.  

Guides to Historic Literature



Encyclopedias are great sources for background information, and our collection includes encyclopedias on many topics.  To find an encyclopedia on a topic, try including ENCYCLOPEDIA as a keyword in an Advanced Search in the catalog, or look for the subheading ENCYCLOPEDIAS in the subject terms.

Electronic Resources

Biographical Information

Electronic Resources