Finding and Focusing a Topic

The Library has a large number of subject specific online encyclopedias with short overview essays on most people and events in American history. These essays can be helpful in defining and focusing a topic. Entries generally include bibliographies with important works on the topic. To discover encyclopedias with essays on your topic, go to the catalog, select Articles & more, type keywords which describe your topic into the searchbox and select the format facet Reference on the results screen or browse selected encyclopedias on the History Subject Guide.

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Offers access to a collection of digital encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and directories in the arts, social sciences, business, and sciences.
A self-paced interactive tutorial is available for those new to this resource.

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.

African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press)
Contains a selection of African American studies resources ranging from the authoritative Encyclopedia of African American History to the African American National Biography project. Selected primary sources, maps, images, charts, and tables round out the collection.

Example:
A keyword search for slavery and Quakers in the "Dictionary of American History" brings up an essay on Antislavery. After a close reading of the essay you could decide to focus your topic on the role of women in the abolitionist movement or on Angelina Grimke. The bibliography of the essay leads to a number of relevant secondary sources. The essay also includes helpful leads to primary sources such as the titles of two famous antislavery newspapers. The Liberator is available online in the "American Periodicals Series" collection (see Finding Primary Sources). An author search for Angelina Grimke in "American Periodicals Series" leads to numerous articles written by her for the Liberator and other antislavery magazines. The "African American Studies Center" includes a biography of A. Grimke (it also includes a biography of Angelina Weld Grimke who was born much later) and so does the "American National Biography Online" (see Finding Primary Sources). The latter also includes references to published primary sources.

Finding Primary Sources

Here are some suggestions for locating primary sources in the Library's collection. Ask for advice and directions if you cannot find what you are looking for.

Books & Media
Find primary sources in the library's catalog with keywords such as correspondence, diaries, "personal narratives," speeches, documents and sources together with keywords that describe your topic. Consult the online Primary Source Research Guide for further details.

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.

New York Times: 1851- (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
Provides full-text access to the complete New York Times archive except for the most current three years.

Washington Post Historical: 1877- (ProQuest)
Contains the full text of all Washington Post and Washington Post/Times-Herald title variations, from 1877 until seventeen years ago.

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.

Pennsylvania Gazette: 1728-1800 (Accessible Archives)
Full-text transcription and digitized image of the actual newspaper page as it originally appeared.

Virginia Gazette
The Virginia Gazette was published weekly in Williamsburg from 1736-1780. The news covered all Virginia and included some information for other colonies, Scotland, and England.

African American Newspapers: The 19th Century (Accessible Archives)
Provides access to the major 19th century African American newspapers including The Christian Recorder (1861-1902), Freedom's Journal (1827-1829), The North Star (1847-1851), and Frederick Douglass' Paper (1851-1863).

American Periodicals (ProQuest)
Provides access to the full-text of American magazines and journals published from the colonial period to the early 20th century.

Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 (Readex)
Features most of the books, pamphlets and broadsides printed in America between 1639 and 1800. Titles were selected based on Charles Evans’ American Bibliography.

Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819 (Readex)
Features most of the books, pamphlets, and broadsides published in America from 1801 through 1819. Contains many state papers and government reports. Titles were selected based on Ralph Shaw’s and Richard H. Shoemaker’s American Bibliography.

Sabin Americana, 1500-1926 (Gale)
Offers digital access to books, pamphlets, serials, and other sources documenting the history of the Americas published worldwide from 1500 to the early 20th century. Titles were selected based on Joseph Sabin's Bibliotheca Americana.

American State Papers: 1789-1838 (Readex)
Contains the full-text of legislative and executive documents of the first 25 U.S. Congresses. See the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 collection for later government documents.

American Founding Era (Rotunda)
Offers digital access to the authoritative print editions of the papers of major figures of the early republic ranging from John Adams to Andrew Jackson. New content will be added as it becomes available.

Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs (ProQuest)
Features digital copies of books, pamphlets and periodicals related to women’s history in general and the movement for women’s rights in particular. Coverage is international and extends from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 20th century.

Constitutional Debates on Freedom of Religion: A Documentary History

American Decades: Primary Sources

Black Abolitionist Papers (ProQuest)
Features newspapers articles, manuscripts, letters, pamphlets, proceedings, and books written by African Americans actively involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States between 1830 and 1865.

African American Studies Center (Oxford University Press)
Contains a selection of African American studies resources ranging from the authoritative Encyclopedia of African American History to the African American National Biography project. Selected primary sources, maps, images, charts, and tables round out the collection.

Example:
An author search in the library's catalog for Angelina Grimke leads to published primary sources which include her diary, letters and political writings. American National Biography Online has a short biography of Angelina Grimke.

Finding Secondary Sources

Falvey Library Catalog
The Library's catalog enables patrons to search & browse Falvey Memorial Library’s collection of books, journals, audio/video materials, electronic resources and more.

WorldCat (FirstSearch)
Presents a combined catalog of the catalogs of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. WorldCat highlights publications available at Villanova University. Other items can be requested via an inter-library loan request form. WorldCat Step-by-Step is a self-paced interactive tutorial for students new to this resource.

America: History and Life (EBSCO)
Indexes the literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada from prehistory to the present. Includes citations for journal and magazine articles, book reviews and dissertations. Abstracts of journal articles are included together with selected full-text. Indexing goes back to 1964.
America: History & Life is a self-paced interactive tutorial for students new to this resource.

JSTOR
Provides a full-text archive of academic journals and books in the humanities, social sciences and mathematics. The most recent three to five years of a journal are usually not included.

Example:
A subject search in the library's catalog will discover books about Angelina Grimke in the library's collection.

A subject search in America: History & Life for Angelina Grimke will lead to scholarly journal articles about aspects of Grimke's life such as

Foletta, Marshall. "Angelina Grimké: Asceticism, Millenarianism, and Reform." New England Quarterly 80, no. 2 (June 2007): 179-217.

and critical reviews of her published diary such as

Jabour, Anya, and Jean R. Soderlund. "Walking by Faith: The Diary of Angelina Grimké, 1828-1835." Journal of the Early Republic 24, no. 4 (Winter 2004): 715-717.

Annotation Helpers

Place events in American history in context with the help of chronicles:

Determine the origin, meaning and changing usage of words with the help of:

Find the sources of quotations used in your primary texts with the help of: