Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Writing a History Paper: Planning Your Research

Planning Your Research

Look at the available resource guides and plot out a strategy.

  • use the resources in Background on either the Research Help: History pages or the Class Pages tab to fill in any gaps of knowledge or to get a general overview of your topic.
  • use the bibliography at the end of articles in encyclopedias to get some basic resources
  • plan what types of resources and sources you need and which databases you will use
  • think of keywords or subject headings that would be good for your topic
  • look at the subject headings of relevant articles you found in databases for additional subject headings
  • plan your search strategy, thinking of what boolean or proximity operators you might need, if you'll use wildcards, etc. Make sure you know how to do the search in the database you plan to use
  • start your research early so that you have time to get materials that are not in the Libraries via ILLiad and/or EZBorrow.
  • plan your citation management. Know what you'll be using and how to use it.


If you are unsure of which database to use or what keywords or subject headings to use, or what would make a good search strategy, talk to a reference librarian. Reference librarians can help you locate appropriate encyclopedias, help you find good terms to use, and develop a good search strategy.

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Sue Collins
Sue Collins
Senior Librarian
109E Hunt Library
4909 Frew St.
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213
Currently Working From Home and working part-time
Subjects: History, Reference