Exploratory Research

Consult the resources listed below to explore the viability of research topics.

Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford University Press)  Tutorial
Presents peer-reviewed, annotated bibliographies and expert commentary on current scholarship in selected disciplines. The bibliography for Atlantic history includes coverage of U.S. history up to the late nineteenth century.

Oxford Handbooks Online (Oxford University Press)
Each handbook introduces and surveys the state of scholarship in a field of study through review articles written by leading subject specialists. Includes handbooks on the Atlantic world, slavery in the Americas, American Indian history, and American women’s and gender history.

Oxford Research Encyclopedias (Oxford University Press)
Offers peer-reviewed topical introductions and literature reviews written by well-regarded authorities.

African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press)
Contains a selection of information sources ranging from the authoritative Encyclopedia of African American History to the African American National Biography project.

Gale eBooks
Offers access to a collection of digital encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and directories. Includes the Dictionary of American History, the Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, and the Encyclopedia of American Immigration among others.

American National Biography Online (Oxford University Press)
Presents authoritative biographies of influential people who lived in what is now the United States. Covers only deceased subjects. Includes portraits, if available, and bibliographies with citations to works by and about featured individuals.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press)
Presents authoritative biographies of influential people who lived in Britain. Covers only deceased subjects. Includes portraits, if available, and bibliographies with citations to works by and about featured individuals.

Primary Sources in Print

Many primary sources are available in published form and are thus easily accessible as well as often transcribed and edited for your convenience.

Falvey Library Catalog
Use the local catalog to search for primary sources in print books. Books in the library's digital collections are also indexed in the catalog.

WorldCat (FirstSearch)
A catalog of library holdings worldwide. WorldCat highlights books available locally and offers a convenient inter-library loan request option for books that are not available.

Here are a few tricks which will help you to locate primary sources in the catalog:

  • Search by author to find autobiographies, collections of letters, speeches, diaries and more.
  • Official subject terms that generally describe primary sources include diaries, correspondence, personal narratives, speeches, description and travel, sources, manuscripts, "early works to 1800".
  • Keywords that describe primary sources include all of the above plus memoirs, journal, travel narratives, documents.
  • Use keywords that describe classes of people to find primary sources by unknown subjects. Examples include lawyers, soldiers, nurses, African Americans, Indians of North America, children.
  • Newspapers can be tricky, because they are published continuously over many years and may change their names repeatedly. Look them up in a catalog and check whether the paper was published in your period of interest.
    Example: A subject search for Ireland and newspapers will result in a list of locally available Irish newspapers.
  • Ask a librarian for help if you have any questions.

Selected Digital Primary Source Collections

All books and pamphlets available through the Library’s digital collections have records and links in the catalog.

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 (Gale)
Books about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's.

Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 (Readex)
Books, pamphlets and broadsides published in North America between 1639 and 1800.

Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819 (Readex)
Books, pamphlets and broadsides published in North America between 1801 and 1819.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online: Parts I&II (Gale)
Books published throughout the 18th century.

Hathi Trust Digital Library
Millions of books online. Books published up until 1923 are freely available online. Use the library's catalog or the EZBorrow catalog for access to later publications.

Internet Archive
Provides digital access to books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. Most of the freely available files are books published prior to 1923 and government documents.

African American Newspapers: The 19th Century (Accessible Archives)
The complete full text archives of major 19th century African American newspapers such as The Christian Recorder (1861-1902), Freedom's Journal (1827-1829), The North Star (1847-1851), and Frederick Douglass' Paper (1851-1863).

America's Historical Newspapers (Readex)
Includes full text of selected early American newspapers published between 1690 and 1922. Villanova University has access to series 1 through 5 and 7.

American Periodicals (ProQuest)
The complete full text archives of magazines that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900.

American History Collection (Rotunda - University of Virginia Press)
Digital editions of the papers of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Dolley Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry.

Black Abolitionist Papers (ProQuest)
Articles, documents, correspondence, proceedings, manuscripts, and literary works of almost 300 African American abolitionists.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set: 1817–1994 (Readex)
Reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from the 15th Congress through the 103rd Congress.

American State Papers: 1789-1838 (Readex)
Legislative and executive documents of the first 14 U.S. Congresses. Documents of the 15th Congress through the 103rd Congress are available in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817 – 1994.

AncestryLibrary (ProQuest)
A vast collection of genealogical data which traces the history of millions of individuals going in some cases as far back as 1300.  The collection consists of census data, vital records, directories, photos, and more.

Secondary Literature

Falvey Library Catalog
Explore the Library’s collection of academic books about your topic.

WorldCat (FirstSearch)
Presents a combined catalog of the catalogs of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. WorldCat highlights publications available at Villanova University, which can be requested via inter-library loan.

America: History and Life (EBSCO)
Use this database to find journal articles about your topic. The blue find it button is the link to the library’s e-journal subscriptions.

This is an archive of selected core journals and books in the humanities, social sciences and mathematics. Select Advanced Search to limit your search to history journals for better results.

Citation Management

Chicago Manual of Style Online
The 17th edition of the Manual is the most current. The online version includes a Citation Quick Guide with examples. The Library's website offers a short introduction and overview to the Notes and Bibliography System commonly used in the humanities.