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HIS 498C

This is a basic guide to resources for historical material, research and data available from Cline Library, and Special Collections and Archives, with additional useful online resources

Introduction to Historical Resources in Cline Library

Historical research, and the ultimate product - whether that be an essay, an assignment, a paper, a thesis, an article or a book, is literally an assemblage of materials and data gathered from appropriate sources. Resource materials for historical research are wide and varied, and depending upon the topic at hand, can even rest upon material from sources in other academic realms. For most history classes and students, the material listed below is generally ample for research, but know, this is not an exhaustive list.

Important concepts around historical research involve the quality of the resources (and that's at least one reason we relay of some traditional metrics like using peer reviewed material), balance, and the use of primary source material when appropriate.

Monographic material

Information presents itself in many different ways. The means most familiar to researchers and historians are books and core tried and true library resources. The Cline Library has approximately 1.1 million volumes of material- many of those are what are called "monographs" in the library.  For the most part we would describe these for historians as being non-fiction works, and "secondary sources", that is works of cumulated research, that explore elements of history of people, places, and things. In the library of Congress subject classification, monographs and periodicals are catalogued and grouped largely by place and subject. United States History generally lives in the E 100s. Books about Native peoples at E 98 and E 99. Books about states in the F 800s, and so on. More specialized histories (like military history) get their own call number sequences in the Us and the Vs as examples.


Primo Library Catalog - Primo actually creates as closely as possible a "one box" search tool that taps into books, journal articles, government documents, digital Special Collections material and more. For our purposes here, what Primo does best is connect researchers to books, and traditionally, books are the building blocks for research. Once you've executed a search, you may limit your search by selecting books from "Material Type" on the left. The individual book record will give you information about the title that will be useful in considering the book's use as a potential source. Pro and Con- to find books in Cline there is no other tool, but without a carefully constructed search, because Primo draws from so many data sets results inevitably will be overwhelming, and you may need to refine your search repeatedly. The benefits are however that your search will return many items you may not have considered including material that is online- e-books, government documents, and articles from journals.

WorldCat - will not provide direct access to material housed within the library (it is sort of a catalog of individual library catalogs that is world-wide in scope), nor will it provide online access to books, but it is a great tool to consult if you have a citation to something and want to verify the information or want to see where material you are interested in resides.

Journal and Periodical Articles

The most current, and most focused historical material will tend to be be found in periodicals (magazines) and Journal. For the most part, articles are considered as secondary sources. Generally, journals and their articles have shifted into an all online format wherein the article aggregators ("databases") also provide online access to the articles themselves. There is a list of the library's online article databases here, but below are the two you probably need to be familiar with first.

Academic Search Complete Academic Search Complete is multi-disciplinary database that includes peer-reviewed journal articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and more. While not tailored solely to historians or historical research, this database provides approximately 40 years of access to general magazines and periodicals that also cover historical topics. Academic Search Complete will allow you to limit search results to just peer reviews articles, or to articles available online.

JSTOR - Database of articles from scholarly journals spanning the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. JSTOR provides access of articles for the life of the journal title. This provides researchers with deep and rich access to subjects. There are embargoes however, established by some journal titles, that delay recent articles from appearing in JSTOR for sometimes as long as a number of years. Thus, using both Academic Search Complete AND JSTOR in often necessary and advisable.

Periodicals as a published format, especially for articles 20 or more years older may live in the library in one of several physical formats. The Cline Library's periodical collection primarily is on the second floor in paper format, and on the first floor in various micro-formats. The Primo catalog may be consulted using the periodical or journal title. If you need help, consult the staff at the main Services Desk on the first floor- or use the library's AskUs! service to get a clearer reading on where material is and what format it is in. For researchers seeking early articles, print indexes from early in the last century still exist in the library at the end of the bound periodicals collection on the second floor.

Government Documents

From the earliest points in the history of the United States, government information was made publicly available to serve a variety of purposes including providing public educational information, basic information on the status of the republic, and a certain degree of operational transparency. The earliest material publicly distributed included a series called the "Serial Set". The Serial Set contained reports of governmental actions and operations, reports made to the executive branch and to Congress. Primarily these were shared with learned societies, museums and later with schools and libraries.  In the early 1900s a more formal government information distribution plan was established via the U.S. Government Printing Office to distribute things published on behalf of the federal government to "regional" and "selective" depository libraries. NAU joined that program in 1937, but has a deep collection dating with some material dating to the late 1800s.

Some government documents can be considered as primary source materials, as they are created by agencies (and authors) with first-hand knowledge of specific events, or because they contain witness testimony (as in Congressional Hearings), or original data.

The physical U.S. Documents Collection is arranged using the Superintendent of Documents Classification system (SuDocs) - which arranges materials by the agency of origin (U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National forests, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, etc.) and respective call numbers reflect that agency association. The SuDocs call numbers while sort of looking like the Library of Congress system used in the rest of the library, mean different things and contain different information.

The primary tool to access U.S. and Arizona States Documents (located on the SE corner of the first floor) is the Primo library catalog. Most federal publications held by the library will be found there.

There are however a number of valuable online databases of (especially current) government information researchers need to be aware of:

Catalog of United States Government Publications (CGP)- The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) is the finding tool for electronic and print publications from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the U.S. government. These publications make up the National Bibliography of U.S. Government Publications. The CGP contains descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online.

USA.Gov- a searchable database of government documents and data.

Other Important Government Document Series:


The Cline Library has a rich array of historic Arizona state and national newspapers available for researcher to use- primarily in microfilm format. The Newspapers (especially local ones) generally aren't indexed, and so specific event dates are critical to gain access to relevant articles. The Newspaper room is located near the southwest of the Q-Z book stack area on the library's first floor. There are some microfilm and microfiche readers in the room with the newspapers, but there is a far better machine in the adjacent room that can make .pdf copies from the microfilm.

New York Times - A national newspaper of record, 1980-

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives (SCA) located on the library's second floor (right above the entrance) is a highly specialized unit within Cline Library. For one thing, SCA has a narrower collecting focus that the rest of the library - "The Human and Natural History of the Colorado Plateau". SCA also deals in different and very unique things: there are more than 500 manuscript collections- materials collected by individuals, corporations and cultural bodies. There are more than 500 photographic collections, ranging from a handful of images on a particular place or event to professional photographers' collection with thousands of images. There is the University Archives - the history of Northern Arizona. There are also 50,000 monographic and periodical volumes reflecting Plateau and university history.

There are only 2 tools researches  need to be proficient with to access unique primary source material:

Colorado Plateau Digital Archives - The Digital Archives currently has about 130,000 items available to researchers. These include documents, letter, photographs, oral histories, documents, moving images and films, diaries and more. The digital archives is a great place to start researching local and regional history.

Arizona Archives Online - AAO is a database of the majority of Arizona's archives-holding institutions, including NAU. The purpose of AAO is to link the researcher though a keyword search to collection finding aids - tools which provide inventory information and context to collections housed in libraries, archives and museums in Arizona. Use these to find information about collections housed within SCA, or learn more about the material you have found in the digital archives.

Useful Online History Resources


SCA Subject Resource Pages ( a good place to begin to discover the array of digitized primary source material available in the Cline Library.

Other Digital Archives: