All Research Guides

History, General Guide

Subject Librarian

Val Lem Val Lem
(416) 979-5000 x6891

Below is a list of databases you can use to locate scholarly and peer-reviewed articles, as well as book reviews and news articles. If you need help identifying scholarly and peer-reviewed articles, see this tutorial.

Check the RULA Digital Repository for materials written by Ryerson students, staff, and faculty.

America : History & Life Resource has Canadian focus
America : History & Life is an index of literature covering the history and culture of the United States and Canada, from prehistory to the present. With indexing for 1,700 journals from 1964 to present, this database is an important bibliographic reference tool for students and scholars of U.S. and Canadian history. Strong English-language journal coverage is balanced by an international perspective on topics and events, including abstracts in English of articles published in more than 40 languages.

Historical Abstracts
This database contains abstracts of articles from 2,000 journals relating to the history of the world (excluding Canada and the US) from 1450 to the present. Also included are abstracts of important books in this field. This database provides indexing of more than 1,700 academic historical journals in over 40 languages.

Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH)
The Bibliography of British and Irish History Online provides bibliographic data on historical writing dealing with the British Isles, and with the British empire and commonwealth, during all periods for which written documentation is available - from 55BC to the present. The bibliography is a guide to the work of historians - it does not contain original sources, unless they have been edited and republished by historians (except for a selection of key sources published before 1901). The bibliography lists books, articles in books and articles in journals. Over 600 journals are regularly checked.

CPI.Q Resource has Canadian focus
CPI.Q provides comprehensive coverage of over 400 Canadian and international periodicals. All subject areas are represented, with an emphasis on mainstream and academic titles available in Canadian libraries.

History of Science, Technology & Medicine
History of Science, Technology and Medicine integrates four bibliographies—the Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science, the Current Bibliography in the History of Technology, the Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza and the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. With an interdisciplinary focus, the database covers topics on the role of scientific discovery in society and culture, as well as the historiography of scientific disciplines from prehistory to the present. It includes journal articles, conference proceedings, books, dissertations, serials, maps and other related materials.

Online Egyptological Bibliography
The Online Egyptological Bibliography (OEB) holds the details of more than 100,000 references in Egyptological literature. It includes the volumes of the previous Annual Egyptological Bibliography (AEB) for 1947-2001 with all abstracts, combined with Bibliographie Altägypten (BA) for 1822-1946, and a large majority of the records in the Aigyptos database. It provides coverage of Egyptological literature from 1822 to the present and is updated nearly every day.

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
This database provides abstracts and indexing of the international literature of political science and international relations, along with complementary fields, including international law and public administration/policy. The database provides abstracts of journal articles and citations to book reviews drawn from over 1,500+ serials publications and also provides abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertations and working papers.

JSTOR is a full text digital archive of core scholarly journals with complete back runs of many titles. As part of JSTOR's agreement with publishers, current issues (usually the last 3 - 5 years) are not digitized by JSTOR and may be obtained elsewhere. The Ryerson University Library has access to the entire content of JSTOR's archival journal collections: Arts & Sciences I Collection, Arts & Sciences II Collection, Arts & Sciences III Collection, Arts & Sciences IV Collection, Arts & Sciences V Collection, Arts & Science VI Collection, Arts & Science VII Collection, Life Sciences Collection. Also Current Subscription collection: access to individual subscriptions by University of Chicago Press, University of California, etc.

Academic Search Premier
Academic Search Premier provides full text for over 2,000 academic, social sciences, humanities, general science, education and multi-cultural journals. In addition to the full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for approximately 3,500 journals. Most journals are peer reviewed.

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries
This database includes the immediate experiences of approximately 500 women, as revealed in over 100,000 pages of diaries and letters. The collection now includes primary materials spanning more than 300 years. Each source has been carefully chosen using leading bibliographies. The collection also includes biographies and an extensive annotated bibliography of the sources in the database.

British Periodicals Online
British Periodicals Collections I and II trace the development and growth of the periodical press in Britain from its origins in the seventeenth century through to the Victorian ‘age of periodicals’ and beyond. On completion this unique digital archive will consist of almost 500 periodical runs published from the 1680s to the 1930s, comprising six million keyword-searchable pages and forming an unrivalled record of more than two centuries of British history and culture.

C19 Index
C19 Index is a bibliographic database for 19th century research, providing integrated access to the most important finding aids for books, periodicals, official publications, newspapers and archives.

China, Trade, Politics & Culture, 1793-1980
Manuscript material relating to the activities and observations of British and American diplomats, missionaries, business people and tourists in China from 1793 to 1980, together with rare periodicals, colour paintings, maps, photographs and drawings. An interactive map encourages searches by city and region.

Defining Gender
This online project provides five centuries of advice literature for men and women of original manuscript and printed material, including a strong core of documents from the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Ephemeral material such as ballads, cartoons and pamphlets is featured alongside diaries, advice literature, medical journals, conduct books and periodicals. Structured into five sections, Defining Gender, 1450-1910, Online addresses Conduct and Politeness (Section I), Domesticity and the Family (Section II), Consumption and Leisure (Section III), Education and Sensibility (Section IV) and The Body (Section V).

Early Canadiana Online Resource has Canadian focus
Early Canadiana Online is a bilingual digital library of primary (source) documents of early Canadian printed publications including books, annuals and periodicals. Over 1,300 sources (including 350 titles from outside the U.S.) are indexed and abstracted. Of these, 600 are available in full text.

Early Encounters in North America
Contains 1,482 authors and over 100,000 pages of letters, diaries, memoirs and accounts of early encounters. Particular care has been taken to index the material so that it can be used in new ways. For example, you can identify all encounters between the French and the Huron between 1650 and 1700.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online
Bearing witness to what many scholars consider the three most significant events in world history - The American Revolution, The French Revolution and The Industrial Revolution - this resource features: Full-text search capabilities Canonical titles of the period as well as contemporary works that analyze and debate those titles Works by both well-known and lesser-known authors. Ryerson has both original ECCO and ECCO 2.

Eighteenth Century Journals
This database brings together journals printed between 1693 and 1799 illuminating all aspects of eighteenth-century social, political and literary life. Many are ephemeral, lasting only for a handful of issues, others run for several years. They offer effective coverage of the important issues of the period, and are invaluable to the study of all aspects of the eighteenth century, including crime, sport, advertising, the theatre fashion politics, revolution agriculture social issues and society life. Part I contains material from the Hope Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Part II has titles chosen from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center which holds one of the finest collections of 17th and 18th century newspapers and periodicals in the world.

Empire online
Empire Online brings together thousands of images of original manuscript and printed documents from libraries and archives around the world. Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Oceania and South Asia are covered. Published in five thematic sections, Empire Online is fully searchable and offers thematic essays by leading scholars, embedded with hypertext links which relate directly to the documentary evidence provided. The five sections concentrate on Cultural Contacts, 1492-1969 (Section I) Empire Writing and the Literature of Empire (Section II) The Visible Empire (Section III) Religion & Empire (Section IV) and Race, Class, Imperialism & Colonialism, c.1607-2007 (Section V).

First Nations Periodical Index Resource has Canadian focus
The First Nations Periodical Index contains journals of mainly Canadian Native content. This Index is a tool providing access to information about First Nations for students (high school or university), educators, instructors and researchers. The First Nations Periodical Index is a joint project of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, Saskatoon Campus, the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre and the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples Committee.

Historicity Resource has Canadian focus
Previously known as Historicity: Toronto Then and Now, the website of Local History and Genealogy by Toronto Public Library is a Virtual Reference Library gateway to historical and current information about the city of Toronto and its neighbourhoods. The Digital Archive includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts, ephemera and digitized books from our Special Collections for research, study and discovery. This site also provides links to Toronto Neighbourhoods Map and city directories.

Medieval Travel Writing
The core of the material is a collection of medieval manuscripts from libraries around the world and dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The main focus is accounts of journeys to the Holy Land, India and China. These have been reproduced in colour where appropriate. These are augmented by an array of translations and supporting materials (all of which are fully searchable) and interactive maps showing the routes of the travellers.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online
The nineteenth century was the first great age of industrialization and technological innovation. It was an age of political revolution and reform, nationalism and nation building, the expansion of empire and colonialism, growing literacy and education, and the flowering of culture both popular and high. NCCO consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages. The content and its rich metadata is fully cross-searchable. Ryerson has access to Archive 1 (British Politics and Society), Archive 2 (Asia & West Diplomacy & Cultural Exchange) and Archive 4 (Corvey Collection of European Literature)

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories Resource has Canadian focus
Includes 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information, so providing a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950. Composed of contemporaneous letters and diaries, oral histories, interviews, and other personal narratives, the series provides a rich source for scholars in a wide range of disciplines. In selected cases, users will be able to hear the actual audio voices of the immigrants.

North American Indian Thought and Culture
North American Indian Thought and Culture contains over 119,000 pages of text and images. Included are biographies, auto-biographies, personal narratives, speeches, diaries, letters, and oral histories. The database represents the largest compilation ever created of biographical information on indigenous peoples from all areas of North America.

North American women's letters and diaries
Includes the immediate experiences of 1,325 women and 150,000 pages of diaries and letters. The collection also includes biographies and an extensive annotated bibliography of the sources in the database.

Periodicals Archive Online
An online archive containing over 700 journals of digitized, full-image articles, Periodicals Archive Online (formerly PCI Full Text) offers access to international, scholarly literature in the arts, humanities and social sciences disciplines from 1802 to 1995. For collection 1 to 5, we have coverage up to 2000.

Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490 - 2007
This resource on trans-Atlantic slavery and abolition brings together original manuscript and rare printed material from dozens of libraries and archives across the Atlantic world. Documents are presented alongside contextual essays contributed by leading academics in the field each essay will have hypertext links to the primary sources it discusses. Topics covered include the African Coast, the Middle Passage, the varieties of slave experience, religion, revolts, abolition, and legislation. The collection also includes case studies from America, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Cuba. This project provides access to many thousands of original manuscripts, pamphlets, books, paintings, maps and images.

United Nations Treaty Collection
This publication provides information on the status of over 500 major multilateral instruments deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations (as of 1 January 2009) and covers a range of subject matter such as Human Rights, Disarmament, Commodities, Refugees, the Environment and the Law of the Sea. The number of treaties deposited with the Secretary-General keeps growing steadily. This publication reflects the status of these instruments, as Member States sign, ratify, accede or lodge declarations, reservations or objections. It is over one thousand pages in length and is published annually in hard copy (three volumes). The on-line version is currently updated daily.

Women and Social Movements in the United States 1600-2000
An online journal about women and social movements in the United States from 1600 to 2000 under the editorial direction of Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin. The website currently includes 112 document projects with more than 2400 documents and some 55,000 pages of additional documents. It includes as well book, film and website reviews and teaching tools.

Canadian Newsstand Resource has Canadian focus
Canadian Newsstand provides the full text of articles, columns and features published by Canada's major newspapers. Provides access to a geographically comprehensive collection of approximately 200 newspaper titles from across Canada, both dailies and community papers The content is updated daily with a two to seven-day delay period.

Globe and Mail, Canada's Heritage from 1844 Resource has Canadian focus
ProQuest Historical Newspaper The Globe and Mail (1844-2011) offers a wealth of historical resources through over 150 years of day-to-day history. The online database consists of the digitized full-image archive of The Globe and Mail newspaper dating back to when it was founded by George Brown in 1844 as The Globe. The content includes every news story, photograph, map, advertisement, classified advertisement, political cartoon, birth, marriage and death notices and letters to the editor from The Globe and Mail. Coverage of issues from early life in Canada West (formerly Upper Canada), Confederation, through the World Wars, major conflicts, first flight of man, and the sinking of great ships are all detailed and covered.

New York Times (1851 - 2006)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times is a unique full-image archive that brings you the entire historical run of The New York Times, the definitive voice of American journalism since 1851. It offers complete coverage from 1851-2006, with a new year’s content added annually.

Pages of the Past : the Toronto Star Resource has Canadian focus
This is an archive of Toronto Star, which includes over a century of regional, national and international events. It is available online, fully digitized, and searchable by date, keyword or subject. It is an electronic, full-text and full-image database of recorded history in Canada, dating back to January 1, 1894. The coverage is from 1894 to 2012.

ProQuest Historical Newspaper Resource has Canadian focus
ProQuest Historical Newspaper provides access to a few major newspapers in North America. That includes The Globe and Mail(1844-2011), The Toronto Star(1894-2012), The New York Times(1851-2010), The Washington Post(1877-1997) and The Wall Street Journal (1889-1997)

ProQuest Newsstand (Canada)
This database detailed indexing helps users quickly find the news information they need. Each issue of each newspaper is indexed thoroughly, so researchers have access to not only top news stories but also the information contained on the various sections of the papers. The indexing covers not only complete bibliographic information but also companies, people, products, etc.

Times Digital Archive, 1785-2006
Researchers can search through the complete digital edition of The Times (London), using keyword searching and hit-term highlighting to retrieve full facsimile images of either a specific article or a complete page. The entire newspaper is available, with all articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos divided into categories to aid searching.

Wall Street Journal (1889-1991)
This database offers full-page-images and article images from the Wall Street Journal from its first issue in 1851 to 1991. The collection includes digital reproductions of every page from every issue, cover to cover, in downloadable PDF files. The database is an ongoing project.

Washington Post (1877 - 1992)
Includes all the articles published since the first issue of the paper in 1877. Provides full text and full image articles with digital reproductions of every page, every article and every issue in PDF format. In addition to news stories, includes editorials, letters to the editor, obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, photos, and advertisements.

Early English Book Online (EEBO)
Early English Books Online (EEBO) The aim of the Early English Books Online Project is to capture the earliest extant edition of every English-language work published during the first two centuries of printing in England, and converting this material into fully-searchable texts. Over 25,000 texts from the first phase of EEBO-TCP have been made freely available as open data in the public domain from January 2015.)

Encyclopedias and dictionaries remain important sources of facts and brief explanatory essays. 

Search the library's main catalogue using keywords as in the following examples:

  • united states history encyclopedias
  • cold war encyclopedias
  • great britain history dictionaries
  • europe history chronology
  • canada biography dictionaries
  • scientists biography dictionaries

Oxford Reference
Reference library that includes subject dictionaries, the World Encyclopedia, English dictionaries, including the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, bilingual dictionaries of French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and entries from Oxford Companions and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

Below is a select list of mapping, statistics, and data resources that may assist you in your historical research. For more resources, visit the Ryerson Library's Geospatial Map & Data Centre.

Canadian Census Analyser (from CHASS Data Centre; Ryerson community members have access)
Includes historical Canadian census data for 1961-2011 and public use microdata files.

NHGIS National Historical Geographic Information System (open access)
Free aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2012.

Cansim Resource has Canadian focus
CANSIM (Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System) is Statistics Canada's computerized database of time series covering a wide variety of social and economic aspects of Canadian life.

Odesi: a Voyage in Data Discovery Resource has Canadian focus
is a service that allows users to search, browse, create summary statistics, graph and download microdata from a range of Statistics Canada surveys, Gallup Polls and other surveys. provides access to collections of polling and social survey data including: Canadian Opinion Research Archive (CORA), Canadian Gallup, and Ipsos Reid. Statistics Canada's public-use survey data forms the core of 's social survey data holdings.

Scholars GeoPortal Resource has Canadian focus
Newly launched in August 2011, This new geospatial data discovery tool offers search, preview, and download functionality for a growing selection of geospatial datasets licensed by Ontario university libraries, covering such topics as land use, transportation networks, census boundaries, points of interest (such as schools, airports, and golf courses), orthophotography, and more. Features available in the beta release include: - full-text searching - geographic searching by drawing a box on the map - browsing by Topic and Series - adding data to the map view to preview it - changing transparency and draw order of layers on the map - selecting from a variety of base maps - identifying features on the map - downloading data in various formats and projections - both French and English language interfaces

SimplyMap Resource has Canadian focus
SimplyMap is a web-based mapping application that allows students to use demographic, business and marketing data to create thematic maps and reports which can be exported to Excel, PDF, Microsoft Word and more. SimplyMap Canada uses various research partners to provide users with the most current demographic, business, and marketing data available. Data can be mapped nation-wide, by province, CMA, CSD, CT or DA.

You can search for books in the library catalogue. If you are having trouble finding books, ask a staff member for help and check out our video about reading call numbers. If Ryerson doesn't own a book that you need, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan

If you do not have a specific author or title of a book, and you do not know the Library of Congress Subject Heading, search the catalogue by keywords.

When you find good sources, you can open the detailed catalogue records and examine the subject headings listed in the subject field for these books. Then do subject searches using those subject headings to locate additional titles with similar subject content.


Thousands of e-books can be found in the catalogue.

Other sources for Electronic Books:

Scholars Portal Books (includes out of copyright titles available to everyone plus subscribed titles only available to the Ryerson community)

Internet Archive (includes books published before 1922? and titles with Creative Commons licenses plus non-book material such as videos)

Project Gutenberg

Hathi Trust Digital Library

Digital Book Index (Thomas R. Franklin)

Google Books (helpful in identifying resources that may be obtained in full from Ryerson or other libraries)

Boolean Searching and Related Tips

Search Techniques

Here are some simple search techniques that can increase the relevance of your results and save you a lot of time.  You can use them in library databases and catalogues or on search sites like Google.

Figure out your Keywords:

Your keywords are the main concepts or ideas of your paper. For example the keywords for a paper on "the role of women in the American Revolution” could be:

  • women
  • United States
  • revolution
  • history

Use synonyms:

Often there are multiple ways to express the same concept. For example these synonyms mean essentially the same thing - ­ make sure to use them:

women can also be:

  • female
  • young women
  • girls

Use quotation marks:

If one of your synonyms contains more than one word (e.g., first nations) use quotation marks (" ") around the whole phrase (e.g., "first nations") to ensure the words are searched for together and not separately.


Shortening, or truncating, a keyword by using symbols such as "*" [the asterisk] or "?" [the question mark] is an excellent way to improve your search results.
For example, canad* will retrieve results for the words Canada, Canadian, and Canadians. Truncating means you don't have to search for these words separately by typing each one individually.

Use "AND" and "OR" and sometimes "NOT":

By bridging your truncated keywords and synonyms with the capitalized search words "AND" and "OR" and "NOT" (known as Boolean operators), you can search for multiple concepts effectively.

Use parentheses:

Using parentheses ( ), called "nesting," groups terms together so you can combine even more concepts. For example: (teenagers OR adolescents) AND (beliefs OR attitudes) AND "war on terror"

Use limiters:

Limit your search to look only for the title or author, within a certain date of publication range, in a certain format, and more. This eliminates a lot of irrelevant results immediately. (These are found in the advanced search options in either databases and websites).

Advanced Search Options:

Everywhere you search, from the library catalogue, to article databases, to Google and Yahoo, there will be a Help page for search tips and a Advanced Search options page. Explore these pages for site­ specific search tips.


Synonyms, quotes, truncation, Boolean, and nesting in action:

("young women" OR wom* OR girls OR females) AND ("united states" OR america) AND (revolution OR "war of independence")

Use of the NOT Boolean operator:

("trinidad and tobago"  OR caribbean) AND carnival NOT cruise
This example may be useful in eliminating unwanted material about the Carnival Cruise Line and its operations.


TIP:  If Boolean looks complicated you can repeat searches by using different keywords:
Search 1: teenagers AND canad* AND "world war one" Search 2: adolescents AND Canad* AND "first world war"

TIP:  If searching in America History and Life or Historical Abstracts, you can apply the historical time period as a limiter (this should not be confused with the date of publication limiter that most databases offer):
Search example to limit your search to the World War I time period: use Historical Period Year 1914 and Era c.e. (AD), to Year 1918 and Era c.e. (AD).

Ryerson Theses and Dissertations

The Ryerson University Library and Archives (RULA) is a repository for major research papers, theses and dissertations produced by graduate students at Ryerson University.

RULA and the Yeates School of Graduate Studies are migrating to online submission of major research papers, theses and dissertations.  During this transition phase, there may be graduate work that is only available online, or only available in print.  To ensure as comprehensive a search as possible, please check both the Library catalogue and RULA Digital Repository.

1. Catalogue - to find graduate work related to a specific program of study, perform a keyword search in the catalogue using “ryerson university dissertations” AND a couple of key words from the program name, such as “civil engineering” or “communication culture” or “immigration studies”.  For example, to look for graduate work in Nursing, type in: “ryerson university dissertations” and nursing

2. Digital Repository - online copies of most of Ryerson's theses and dissertations are available in RULA Digital Repository.

Theses from other Universities

1.  Google -  to locate a specific theses or dissertation, enter the title in Google or Google Scholar, as many universities are digitizing graduate work. 

2. Theses Canada Portal: provides electronic access to the full text of many Canadian theses and dissertations.

3. Proquest Dissertations and Theses: provides access to the full-text of over 400,000 Masters and PhD theses from 1997 onwards. In addition, citations are provided for over 1.6 million doctoral dissertations and master's theses from 1,000 North American and European graduate schools from 1861.

4. Open Access Theses and Dissertations (OATD): provides access to open access research from over 800 colleges, universities and research institutions around the world.

5. DART-Europe E-theses Portal provides access to research theses from 555 universities in 28 European countries

6. NDLTD-Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations is an international nonprofit organization promoting the dissemination of electronic theses and dissertations.  It includes finding aids for digital and some print resources.

7. Canadian Theses = Thèses canadiennes [1947-1980 print; 1985/86-1995/96 on microfiches]: indexes masters and doctoral works from Canadian universities.  Most of the masters works and some of the doctoral works are not listed in PQDT nor Theses Canada Portal.  Other print bibliographies of Canadian theses may be of value including Canadian Graduate Theses: 1919-1967: An Annotated Bibliogrpahy (Covering Economics, Business and Industrial Relations) and Jesse J. Dossick's Doctoral Research on Canada and Canadians, 1884-1983.

Search for Audiovisual items in the catalogue.

Reserve material is available on the second floor, along with portable CD and DVD players for viewing. There are viewing stations located on the fifth floor, along with the circulating Audiovisual collection. Headphones may be checked out at the Circulation Desk on the second floor.

Naxos Music Library (Ryerson community access)

Naxos Music Library is the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. It includes the complete Naxos and Marco Polo catalogues of over 130,000+ tracks, including classical music, jazz, world, folk and Chinese music. Whilst listening, you can read notes on the works being played as well as biographical information on composers or artists in Naxos’s extensive database.

You can select works by composer, artist, period, year of composition, instrument or genre. Playlists can also be easily created for educational use. Naxos’s new releases (currently around 200 CDs per year) are continually added to ensure that the music library is always complete and up-to-date.

It is not possible to download or burn to CD any music on Naxos Music Library.

Naxos Video Library (Ryerson community access)

The Naxos Video Library brings you an extensive streaming video library of classical music performances, opera, ballet, live concerts and documentaries. It includes the Naxos DVD label, Opus Arte, Arthaus, Dacapo, EuroArts, among others and is continuously updated to offer the best selection of performing arts videos.

An online search engine, allows users to search by composer, production, artist, venue, role or genre.

Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries (Ryerson community access)

Produced in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, this is a virtual encyclopedia of the world’s musical and aural traditions.

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive contains open access audio and video files shared under Creative Commons licensing, along with texts and archived webpages from around the world.

European Film Gateway (open access)

A single access point to films, images and texts from selected collections of 30 film archives across Europe.

Please note that Scholars Portal hosting of RefWorks will be discontinued August 15, 2015. Ryerson faculty, students and staff will no longer have access to their RefWorks accounts after this date. Ryerson University Library has created a list of citation management alternatives and is encouraging users to begin the process of exporting references from RefWorks into another software tool. Learn more about how to migrate your references and citations from RefWorks to Mendeley, Zotero or Endnote Web. You also have the option of purchasing an individual subscription to RefWorks.

RefWorks Help

Is your question a frequently asked questions? View FAQ. If you need help with using RefWorks, please contact the reference desk, your subject librarian or email refworks.support@scholarsportal.info.

Below is a list of tutorials (both video and interactive) that may help you with your historical research.


Using the Library:

Understanding Call Numbers (video)

Placing a Hold on a Book (print and video link)

Using the Self-checkout Machine (video)

ISBN/QR Code Scanner (video)


Doing Research:

Using Search Everything (welcome video)

Search Everything: Advanced Search (video)

Finding Articles from Citations (video)

Scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles versus Popular articles (video)

RUSearch Tutorial (A step to by step guide to developing, organizing, researching and writing an essay.  Developed by RULA and Student Learning Support.)

RE:Search Modules (Help with the research process; select Ryerson History from the pull-down menu)



Ryerson Library YouTube Channel

Below is a selective list of open source (free to access) Internet resources and collections that can help with your research. Be sure to consult the library's list of resources for evaluating Internet resources and make informed decisions before incorporating websites into your research.  Digital resources and databases that Ryerson subscribes to can be found on other pages of this guide.


Archival Research:

Ryerson University Archives & Special Collections

Library and Archives Canada

City of Toronto Archives

Archives of Ontario



David Rumsey Historical Map Collection



H-Net Reviews



The Past Speaks (blog by Andrew Smith, a history professor at Coventry University)

Everyday History (blog by Christopher Dummitt, an Assistant Professor at Trent University)




Canadian History:

Canadian War Museum (online exhibits and more)

Champlain Society Digital Collection

McGill University Digital Collections

Peel's Prairie Provinces

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library Digital Collections (University of Toronto)

Where Duty Leads: Canada and the First World War (online companion to the exhibit held 22 Sept-10 Dec 2008)

Toronto Public Library's Toronto Local History & Genealogy (the Digital Archive will eventually include Toronto photographs from the Toronto Star donation of 1,000,000 images 1900-1999)

Toronto Telegram photographs including some not published in the newspaper (York University)

European History:

Archives Portal Europe (from the European Commission)
-Includes archival finding aids and digitized content from over 640 European institutions.


Europeana, 1914-1918: Untold Stories & Official Histories of WWI
-Contains both official and personal histories of the war including letters, diaries, photographs, WWI films, postcards and official government documents.

French Revolution Digital Archive

Imperial War Museums (United Kingdom)

Inventory of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Digital Projects

Making the History of 1989: The Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe

Medieval Sourcebook

Open Society Archives' Digital Archive


US History:

AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History

Digital National Security Archive

Documenting the American South

Library of Congress Digital Collections & Services (includes Historic newspapers, Print and photographs)

Mountain West Digital Library

National Security Archive

Smithsonian (online exhbitions and more including digitised collections)


African History:

African History Sourcebook



UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE: Open Access)


General History:

The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy

Cold War International History Project

The Internet Archive (textual, video, audio archives)

Marxist Internet Archive

Modern History Sourcebook

Portals to the World

World War I Document Archive

World War I Photograph Albums and Postcards -- New York Public Library

History of Science

Niels Bohr Library and Archives -- Center for History of Physics

Profiles in Science -- National Library of Medicine (U.S.)

History of Medicine -- National Library of Medicine's Digital Collections

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents or objects created at the time of an event or shortly afterward.  They contain first-hand accounts of events.  Primary sources may exist as original documents or in mass produced formats.  All of the following can be primary resources:

  • diaries
  • letters
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • photographs
  • interviews
  • speeches
  • sound recordings
  • video or film
  • art and artifacts
  • maps
  • newspapers
  • documents such as laws, statutes, and treaties

Secondary sources are second-hand published accounts of events and are created after an event occurs.  They often interpret and analyze primary and other secondary sources to support arguments about the past.  Common secondary sources include:

  • books including textbooks
  • biographies
  • documentary films about historical events
  • magazines and journals

The following YouTube video from the Hartness Library defines primary and secondary sources, when to use them, and examples of each.  Running time is 3:29.

Finding Primary Sources in the Ryerson Library's Main Catalogue

Use keywords for your topic or historic person along with one of the following words:

  • archives
  • charters
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • documents
  • interviews
  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • notebooks
  • oratory
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works
  • sources
  • speeches


churchill winston speeches

slaves personal narratives

civil war united states sources

The Ryerson Library has some digital collections that include both primary and secondary sources.  These include the Adam Matthew Digital collections:

and some of the Alexander Street Press databases:

Some primary documents may be found in additional databases:

Eighteenth Century Journals I-II (British focused)

ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online)

NCCO (Nineteenth Century Collections Online)


The Ryerson Library has access to six major historical newspaper archives from two different vendors. From ProQuest, there are five North American papers:

The Globe and Mail (1844-2011)

The Toronto Star (1894-2012)

The New York Times (1851-2010)

The Wall Street Journal (1889-1996)

The Washington Post (1877-1997)

And from Gale/Cengage, one UK paper:

The Times Digital Archive (1785-1875)

More Recent Newspapers online can be found at:

ProQuest Newsstand

Canadian Newsstand Complete

There are numerous digitization initiatives for local newspapers around the world.  See for example:

United States:  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

New Zealand: Papers Past

Australia: Trove: Digitised Newspapers and More

See also the History, United States research guide for resources particular to the U.S.A.


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