Skip to Main Content

History 300 - The Study of History


Profile Photo
Chris Spilker
Christopher Spilker, MLIS
Head, Library Research Center
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Mardigian Library
ML 1260
4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128-2406

Research Method

The first step in doing research or writing a paper is selecting a topic to work on. Sometimes, the topic will be provided to you by your instructor. while other times you will have the freedom to select your own approach to the subject matter. There are several important steps to follow that can help your research be successful. 

Summon is a powerful searching tool that searches everything the library has to offer. This includes books, e-books, journals, and articles. A Summon search may return several hundred thousand results among books, e-books, and journal articles. With this many results, it is good to do some initial work to limit the scope of your searches for better results. You can start by using the advanced search option or by qualifying the search results or qualifying the search with options along the left side by type of document, in this case books or journals. 

1. Brainstorming:
          Take a good look at the syllabus and more importantly, the assignment. Pay especially close attention to the language your instructor has used. This is important because it is critical to develop a working list of keywords you can employ in various searches. You also want to make certain that the topic or approach you have selected is relevant to the assignment. Your instructor's choice of words can sometime be helpful to you in starting your keyword list.

2. The library:
          Once you have a basic keyword list, it is time to go to the library, or at least the library website. Search the catalog and various electronic resources to run searches and start looking at potential resources. Looking at reference works, books, and journal articles at this stage can help you refine your keyword list and further develop your topic. A good place to start is reference books in the library. Once you use to catalog, or the links provided on this guide to identify a book, take a look around it on the shelves, you may find other relevant resources. Once you have a reference book in hand, pay close attention to cross references ("see," & "see also") as they may direct you to other terms that you can use in your searches. 


Literature Review Links: Here are a few links to help with how to review academic materials for relevance to your topic:
Reading critically
Literature Review
Be sure to check out any bibliographies or references from books or articles that are relevant, the authors have done a lot of your work for you!
Follow the Chicago manual of style. If you do not have a copy, a quick link to the basic style guide can be found here:

Off-Campus Access

When you are off campus, you will be prompted to log in to the library's databases with your last name,  your 8-digit UMID, and your library PIN.

You can create and change your library PIN online by following these steps:

Click on the My Library Account link

Select UM-Dearborn Student, Faculty, Staff, or Alumni

Enter your last name and your 8-digit UMID

Leave the PIN field blank

Click the Log In button. This will not actually log you in yet; you will still need to create your PIN

The page will refresh, and you will need to re-enter your last name and 8-digit UMID

The form will include two PIN boxes: create your PIN in the first box and verify your new PIN in the second box

When you click the Log In button the second time, your PIN will be created and you should be taken to your library account

Contact the Library Info Desk at 313-593-5559 during regular library hours if you have any difficulties setting up your library PIN online.

On-Campus Access

There are three (3) Wi-Fi networks on UM-Dearborn campus. Make sure you're connected to the UMD-Secure wireless network. It is the only that allows you to connect to online library resources without looking like you're off-campus. There are two ways to access to the UMD-Secure wireless network: 

Automatic Setup

Manual Setup

To connect to UMD-Secure on your Chromebook, follow the instructions on the Connecting Chromebooks to UMD-Secure handout.

Using the list of keywords and search terms you have developed, search through the many relevant databases the library offers. Most of the databases are defaulted to keyword searching , but you can generally qualify a search (subject, title, author...) to get more specific results.
Putting a search term in quotations will search the database for that phrase, rather than the individual keywords. For example, a search using the two keywords newspaper and war will produce different results from a search using the phrase "newspaper coverage of war." I highly suggest running both searches!
Try as many combinations of keywords and phrases as you can to get more specific results. The same method can also be used when searching for books and e-books in the library catalog.
In addition, if you are not getting specific enough results, you can try your searches using truncation which searches for all terms with the same root. To do this, type your root word with an *. For example: child* will bring back results including:  child, childs, children, childrens, and childhood.
These sources of data for your research project will help you get underway. Once you read through journal articles and start collecting books you will be ready to get deeper into your topic. A few more things to remember:

  • Sometime you have to let the data/ available resources inform your direction - too many or too few results may suggest a different strategy.
  • Look at Tables of Contents, Chapter Headings, and Indexes before you start reading a whole book!
  • Librarians are your friends! We are here to help!
  • Make note of specific names, places, dates, and events associated with your topic...It can help refine your searches and present new avenues to explore.
  • Use internet resources cautiously - always try and determine the authority of the individual or organization putting information on a website.

Is the book or article you have found going to work for your purposes?
Try the CRAAP test!

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Interlibrary loan is for:

Books, dissertations, and microforms not available at the Mardigian Library, the University Libraries in Ann Arbor, or through the Michigan Electronic Library (MeLCat).

Copies of periodical articles or a single book chapter.

The Mardigian Library has partnered with MLibrary Document Delivery (MLDD) in Ann Arbor to provide interlibrary loan service to the University of Michigan-Dearborn. MLDD also serves the University Libraries in Ann Arbor and the Thompson Library at UM-Flint. 

Login to ILLiad

Check the Library Catalog (books) or Summon (books, journals, e-resources) to make sure the Mardigian Library does not own the material before placing your ILLiad request. If the title is available in the Library Catalog you should place a Hold Request for the item.

For assistance with interlibrary loan requests, please contact the MLDD office in Ann Arbor at 734-764-8584 or via email,

Things to remember about interlibrary loan:

Try MeLCat first for faster delivery of books and A/V items.

The library cannot hold on to items indefinitely. Please pick up items within 10 days. Unclaimed items will be returned to the owning library.

Please do not wait until the last minute to order your items.

Patron information is confidential in compliance with the library's User Privacy Policy.

All items checked out from University Libraries in Ann Arbor can be returned to the Mardigian Library at the main service desk.

Please do not return ILL, MeLCat, or Askwith Media items through campus mail.

If items are lost, you will be charged for replacement of the item, plus a processing fee.

Please feel free to ask me for assistance in your research project! The best way to get me is to make an appointment or to stop in my office in the Library Research Center in the Mardigian Library. I am in office 1260. My e-mail is and my office phone is 313-593-5614. I am happy to help you get started or to refine your searching methods as you get further along in your project.

University of Michigan - Dearborn Logo
  • 4901 Evergreen Road
    Dearborn, MI 48128, USA
  • Phone: 313-593-5000
  • Contact us