Skip to main content

Tutt Library Research Guides


History Day: Search Tips

A resource for teachers and students to use for National History Day research

Getting Started: Find These Reference Resources @ Tutt Library

Dictionaries and Encyclopedias can offer basic information about eras of history or key figures and leaders; then primary sources can be researched for more specific, detailed information.

Searching for Primary Sources

To find primary sources, try using these terms in keyword searches:

  • Autobiography
  • Capitivity narratives
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Document
  • Letters
  • Memoirs
  • Oral History
  • Papers
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Records
  • Sources
  • Speeches

Keyword Searches

slavery and speeches
women and diaries
colorado and oral history

Author Searches

Lincoln, Abraham
Temperance Society
United Nations

Use "Sources" as an additional keyword in Tiger and Prospector to capture primary source texts.

Keyword Searching

Use the Search Generator from Northwest Missouri State University to help you create a keyword search. 

                        Using AND/OR/NOT (Boolean Search Operators)


Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic.

Example: vegetarianism and environment

Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms.

Example: global warming or climate change



Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search

Example: emissions trading not United States


Additional Search Tips

"Phrase search"  - Use quotation marks (" ") to search for a particular phrase.

Example: "greenhouse gas emissions"

Truncation * - Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. Put an asterisk following the root of the word to find all variations of that word, including singular and plural.

Example: environment* (finds environments, environmental, environmentalist, etc.)

(Grouping/Nesting Keywords) - Use parentheses ( ) as a way to group all your search terms together.

Example: (climate change or global warming) and population growth

Keyword Thesaurus

Use all variations of a keyword.

Words change over time. Today we say Civil War but, in the past, it has been called the American Civil War, War between the States, War of Secession, and War of the Rebellion. If you searched only the term Civil War, you might miss valuable documents written during a different era.

The Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies thesaurus will help you find variations of keywords and subject headings.

Use a Secondary Source to Find a Primary Source

A bibliography from a good secondary source is a fast, easy way to find primary sources.

What's in Store

Letter from Euphenia Johnson to Elizabeth Howard Johnson; written from 1915 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO

Manuscript Women's Letters and Diaries

More Reference Resources @ Tutt...

Database Browsing

Many primary source databases have robust browsing options.

  • Genre
  • Subject
  • Author
  • Time period
  • Places
  • Historical events
  • Personal events
  • Type of collection
  • Place of publication
  • Section of a newspaper

Source Credibility Guidelines

When doing research, you must always check that the information you found is credible. You must ask yourself, "Did I find excellent information?". The following four areas must be checked:

  1. Authority - Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Is the author an expert (credentials or organizational affiliation)? Is there a way to contact the author if needed? If using a web site, examine the URL (.com .edu .gov .org).
  2. Currency - Is the information current or out-of-date? When was the information published, revised, or updated? Are the hyperlinks active/working properly?
  3. Accuracy - Is the information reliable and correct? Did it receive review by an editor? Compare and verify the information with another resource. Is it fact or opinion? Is the information biased? Does the author document his/her sources?
  4. Relevancy - Does the information match your information need?
Tutt Library, Colorado College      Research Help Desk: 719-389-6662, Texting: 719-387-5441, E-mail: