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History: Scholarly Secondary Sources

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources are pieces created some time after a historical event that provide analysis and attempt to understand a specific event or movement in historical or cultural context. Secondary sources may include articles, books, book chapters, podcasts, and documentaries.

What makes it a "scholarly" source?

"Scholarly" refers to the author and the audience of the source. Scholarly sources are written by and for an academic audience (that's you!). Usually the author is a professor or has an advanced degree in history or related subject. The most common scholarly sources in history include:

  • Peer reviewed articles. Peer review is a process where other experts in the field read, review, suggest edits, and ultimately approve or reject the article before it is published. It is a system that helps us have confidence that the published paper is thorough and well-researched. These articles are often found in library databases and academic journals.
  • Academic books and book chapters. Academic books often have an index. Sometimes they can be edited by 1-2 experts while each chapter is written by a different academic, all based on a theme. The chapters themselves may included bibliographies at the end with extensive citations. Often they are meant to be read in pieces (each chapter stands on its own).

Recommended scholarly secondary sources & databases


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