Skip to main content

Research Guides

Why Use Secondary Sources


The raison d'être of scholars is to attempt to describe, explain, interpret and analyze issues & events. Scholars use evidence to support their interpretations which are most often published in the form of books and journal articles (secondary sources). So why should you use secondary sources?


  • Written by expert scholars. Before publication academic books and articles are vetted by other scholars in a process known as peer review.
  • Peer review ensures that scholarly books and articles are more reliable and credible than other types of publications.
  • Provide historical/broader/in depth context and analysis of a topic. For example, if you are researching Emmett Till, you may want to use a scholarly source to get information on the history of lynching in America. 
  • Scholarly articles and books are based on evidence (primary sources) that are cited in the footnotes and bibliography. They are often a quick way to identify potential primary sources that you too may wish to use as evidence in your research paper. 


Keep in mind


  • Expert scholars are likely to use specialized terminology and theory in their analyses making scholarly articles and books sometimes difficult to understand.

Using UW Libraries Search to Find Books


Advanced Search | FAQ | Known Issues

Using UW Libraries Search to Find Books

  • By Topic - Type in the keywords that broadly describe your topic. For example: lynching mississippi
  • By Title - search for a specific book by title. Type in the first few words of the book title in quotations.  For example: "emmett till the murder"
  • By Author - search for books written by a specific author. Type in the last name followed by the first name of the author in quotations. For example: "jung moon-ho"


On the results screen use the "Resource Type" options on the left toolbar to limit your results to books. This will eliminate any book reviews and articles that were found.  Note down the library name and call number -- you need this information to locate the book.


Find Articles on American History

America History & Life is the best database to use when looking for academic journal articles in the field of American history.

Search America History & Life


Link your search terms using the AND connector. For example: emmett till and newspapers. On the search results screen, use the options on the left toolbar to narrow your search results. To find the fulltext of the article (if not provided directly in the database), click on the "Check for Full Text" button and work your way through the screens. Not all articles will be online, some may only be in print, others may not be available at the UW. Articles from journals which the UW does not own can be requested via Interlibrary loan.