Blogs: Research and Citations

Whenever I have to write something, whether it’s a research paper or an article, the first thing I do is keep track of my sources. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a really good fact, but not being able to remember where you found it!

There’s two good online resources, called citation makers, that I use to help me. The great thing is, you can use them to keep track of your resources while you do your research, but they also help you format the citations, and generate your list of sources, or bibliography.

Many students in Oregon use the OSLIS citation maker to generate citations. It allows you to chose between MLA and APA style guides. Be sure to read through all the instructions before you get started. You can’t save a list of citations here, so you’ll have to create your list all in one shot. 

Easybib is a free service that offers you a lot more, and is good for high school and college students. You can save multiple bibliographies here, use their note taking system, generate a bibliography in Word, and generate citations for up to 59 formats of material, in MLA, APA or Chicago/Terabian style manuals. Watch the training video to learn more, and please contact a librarian if you need more help.

If you’ve selected a person for your next biographical report but there are no books about them don’t spend hours looking through Google search results; instead check out Multnomah County Library’s biographies database list.  In these databases you can find quick facts, articles, encyclopedia entries, and even a search engine devoted to famous people.

Still need more information? If you are headed online be sure to evaluate the website before trusting the information. Here are some good questions to ask when doing online research:

1.     Who is the owner of the site? Is it clear who the author of the information on the page is? Is there a way to contact the author or owner?

2.     Is the website trying to sell or persuade you to buy something?

3.     Check the website’s URL to check the authority and validity of the website. When researching, “.edu” and “.gov” are good indicator that it is an official site.

4.     Is the site kept up-to-date, with current links, new material and a creation date listed?

5.     Based on the information you already have, does the website appear to have accurate information? Are there spelling or grammar mistakes?

If you need more help, ask a librarian.

So you've been trying to use primary sources in your research. Maybe you found some great historical documents or speeches. But now you'd like to include some historical images and articles. Read on! (If you need more background about primary sources, start with our blog post Help! I Need to Find Primary Sources!)

There are many places to find historical newspaper and magazine articles. The Historical Oregonian has local newspaper articles from 1861-1987. You’ll also find all the advertisements, photographs, and other images that appeared in the newspaper’s pages. This allows readers to see what life was really like in a certain time period, from world events to the cost of groceries. Image of old newspaper The New York Times Historical is another good source for U.S. and international news articles. The National Geographic Virtual Library has articles, maps, images and ads from National Geographic magazine, covering the years 1888-1994. All three of these resources require a Multnomah County library card number and PIN.

If your library card’s gone missing, you can find articles from other newspapers in Oregon by searching Historic Oregon Newspapers or newspapers from around the country at the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site.

One thing to keep in mind when looking for primary sources: these materials come from different time periods, and they reflect the attitudes and language used at the time.  Articles, images and advertisements from the past may use stereotypes or words that are now considered offensive.  And sometimes primary sources may use out-of-date words: cars may be called automobiles or glasses may be referred to as spectacles, for example.

Still have questions? Contact a librarian for help!

Have you been told to use primary sources in your research? Read on for some suggestions!

What are primary sources, anyway?Revolutionary war map

A primary source is one which was created during the time period being studied. Examples could include documents, speeches/interviews, images, articles (written during the time period), and even artifacts. So, if you are studying the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is considered a primary source. Someone researching the Civil War could use Matthew Brady’s battlefield photographs. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech is a great primary source for those studying the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Where can I find them?

A great place to begin your search is American Memory, a “digital record of American history and creativity.” It contains documents, audio recordings, images, videos and maps from the Library of Congress. Here you can listen to former slaves tell their stories, watch video clips from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, or view maps from the American Revolution.

The National Archives also has a large collection of primary source materials for students and educators. They are arranged by time period and are keyword searchable. Would you like to see President Kennedy’s academic record at Harvard? Or view a handwritten copy of the Oregon Treaty that set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada?  You’ll find them here.

The Masterfile Premier database contains the text of thousands of primary source documents. To find them, once you are in the database, click on the Advanced Search link. Then enter your search terms in the box at the top, and make sure to choose Primary Source Document in the Publication Type box before you click on Search. You'll need your library card number and PIN to search Masterfile Premier.

For historic photos, a great place to look is the LIFE Magazine archive (no library card required), which spans the time period from the 1860s and 1970s.

Are you looking for primary sources specifically about Oregon history? The Oregon Digital Library searches the collections of libraries around the state to find both documents and images. The Oregon State Archives also has some web exhibits about Oregon history that incorporate primary resources; topics range from the creation of the Oregon constitution to Oregonians’ experiences in World War II.

Still have questions? Check out our blog post on Finding Primary Source Articles or contact a librarian for more help!

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