History Study Center

Open History Study Center

in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.


This tutorial will teach you how to use History Study Center, one of  the college databases, and how to find a topic for your research project.

The tutorial works best using the Firefox Browser. Use the forward arrows to move through the tutorial.


Be sure to enter your name and print out the Certificate of Completion at the end, have it signed by a Reference Librarian, and turn in to your professor!


If you are a perfectionist and want to score 100% on the quiz you may take it as many times as you wish. Just close out of the tutorial and begin again.



In this context, library databases are searchable online collections of information.

Collin College subscribes to hundreds of databases, giving students access to millions of magazine, newspaper and journal articles, electronic books, streaming videos, streaming music, art images, and more.

Databases are important because they provide access to reliable, up to date, FREE information.

They are available to currently enrolled students both on and off campus, 24 hours a day.

If you are off campus and want to access a database you will be asked to enter your username & password one time when the database opens.


We ALL love Google! 

When you type an entire sentence or question in Google it is smart enough to pick out the important words. This is called a natural language search.

This is why you can ask Google questions and usually get okay results. Google's algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals that make it possible to guess what you might be looking for.

A Google search for Thomas Jefferson brings up 132,000,000 (132 MILLION) links!!!

Your assignment requires you to use scholarly  materials from a library database!




Unfortunately, library databases and catalogs do not work the same way as Google. Natural language searches (asking questions) in library databases often leave students frustrated, annoyed and usually reluctant to ask for help.


By the way, Librarians are here to help you!

According to Neil Gaiman, "Google can bring you back 100,00 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one."



        quote by Neil Gaiman


Library databases can't ignore the unimportant words you include in your search - it only confuses them - AND will frustrate you!



And that's why keywords are so darn important!


How do you use keywords to find articles for your research? Keywords are index terms.


The word index comes from Latin, meaning "pointer finger."



Index terms (keywords) point the way for a computer to retrieve a particular document from a database.


Keywords are words that describe your topic.

Keywords come from research questions.

Suppose you wanted to research "Whether President Andrew Jackson considered the well being of the Indian people during the Indian Removal of 1830?"

Typing "Did President Andrew Jackson consider the well being of the Indian people during the Indian Removal of 1830?" in a database results in:


If you take the unimportant words out of that sentence you would end up with "Andrew Jackson" and "Indian Removal of 1830" - that search gets much better results!

So now, let's get started doing some searches!

Wait! This is a tutorial, but...


When you finish the tutorial follow these steps to find the library databases:

Login to CougarWeb...Click the Library Tab


On the next screen, click on Find Articles, ...



On the database page click on the letter H for History Study Center. The databases are listed in alphabetical order by title.


 History Study Center, on the right, is a great database in which to find information about any historic topic. It contains both Primary and Secondary Sources.




There's an interesting link on the front page to a Key Events Timeline. Click on it to get a chronological listing of historical events throughout the world. Click on the View Text Only Timeline at the bottom left of the page.


What is the earliest event listed on the page?


Please click the Home link on the top toolbar.



To find a topic, click on Study Units.



Click on American History


History 1301 classes will want to choose either

Pre-colonial or the 1776-1877 time period.


History 1302 classes should choose either

1865 - 1918 or 1918 - 1945


You may also click the link, "American Society in the Twentieth Century" - just be careful about the time period.


Please check with your professor about the time periods.

For right now, please click on "The United States of America, 1776 - 1865"

Take some time to look at the very broad categories listed on the screen. Try to find something that seems interesting and that you would like to learn more about!

About half way down the list, please click on the link... about "The 1850's: a decade of crisis in America."

Read through the introduction to the left of the image of John Brown. In this short paragraph there are a number of possible topics. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise, pro and anti slavery groups, Dred Scott, John Brown, the Republican party, and southerners refusal to accept Lincoln as President.

Click on the first link under Highlights - "The 1850's: a Decade of Crisis in America." There is a Timeline,
Causes, Effects, Key People & Places, Themes, Discussion Points, and a list of Related Topics.

Click on Discussion Points. This is a great way to find an interesting topic!

Please click the back arrow twice (at the top of the page) to get back to 1850's page.

Or, hit the Alt and back arrow twice on your keyboard

Lets look through the Highlights, Reference, Biographies, Primary Sources and Journal Articles to try to narrow our topic.

The Highlights and Reference sections contain some Encyclopedia articles. Please remember, encyclopedias are not considered to be scholarly sources for college research! Find background information from them but do not use them as a source.

Notice that the Primary Sources can be articles, letters, speeches, diary entries, photographs, or anything originating in the time period an event took place or a person lived.



Is this document a primary or secondary source?

Please ask your professor or a librarian if you need help!

Most of the Journal articles at the bottom of the page are Secondary Sources. They are articles written about a  person or event at a later date.


Is the document below a primary or secondary source?


Occasionally, you may come across a document that can be considered both a primary source and a secondary source. An example of this could be a book written in 2016 that contains copies of letters written during the Civil War.

History Study Center
also refers to Primary Sources as Historical Documents.

 Click on the Maps & Reference

Click "Browse a Table of Contents for each Maps & Reference sourcebook"


Under Atlases, click Chadwick-Healey Animated Maps


Click on the American Revolution

Click on map to enlarge it. On the map click Continue and the Play Animation tab/Minimize the box and enjoy!

Click on the Map Key in the upper right

History Study Center contains a lot of surprises!


 Let's go back to the Home Page

(click Home). Once again, click on Study Units, American History, and 1776 - 1865.

Find and click on the study unit entitled, "The Gold Rush: Frontier Dreams"

Scroll down to the Journal Articles at the bottom of the page. Click on the article titled "The Rise & Fall of Captain John Sutter."

Is this a Primary or Secondary source?

I need to look for more Secondary Sources. Lets type in sutter, john in the search box at the top of the page. Databases prefer proper names entered in the last name, comma, first name, format.

Databases are not case sensitive so it is not necessary to capitalize titles or proper names. Scroll down to the Journal articles. 

How many Journal Articles are there? Choose a number closest to your results.

As you are looking at Articles, notice the descriptions under the title links. There are three articles with the same title. 

Why would these articles not be appropriate for your research?


Let's try the second Article titled, "Empires, Frontiers, Filibusters and Pioneers: The Transnational World of John Sutter."

Notice the "Cite this" icon at the top of the page. Click on it and open the citation.


Is this citation correctly formatted in the new MLA 8th Edition style?


The article is in PDF format and is a scanned copy of the original article. Open it after you finish the tutorial. You can enlarge it for easier reading.

 Notice the options at the top of the page - You may email, print or save the article to your personal archive on History Study Center. Click on My Archive at the top of the page. You can create an account and save articles on the History Study Center server (in My Archive).

Just click Create a Profile in My Archive - History Study Center does not share your email address or send you advertising!

Here are my saved articles. I can access them at any

Another way to search History Study Center is by clicking specific Journals, at the bottom of the Search/Browse Box.

Click the Journals box:

From here you can search a specific Journal -
Type journal of american history in the Journal Title box and "california gold rush" in quotation marks in the Keyword Search box. How many articles do you get? Notice all the titles have some form of "California Gold Rush" in them.

How many articles are retrieved using quotation marks?

Now go back and do the same search without the quotation marks.

How many Journal Articles are retrieved without quotation marks?

Using quotation marks around specific phrases can be very helpful when you're searching for an event or person. Example: "new deal" retrieved 1781 results and new deal, 2767.

Is there a Related Study Units link?

Please click the back arrow until you are on the History Study Center Home Page (or the Home link). There's a new feature at the bottom of the page called World Conflicts Today. Click on the link. Scroll up to the top of the page and notice the full text availability of many historical documents along with an overview and helpful insights from many scholars. Click on the Constitution of the United States.

Notice the Overview, Historical Context, Critical Context, etc. This is a great resource!


Click the back button and look at the Knowledge Notes: Topic Guides, Very Short Introductions of interesting topics and World Conflicts Today.



How are the topics arranged on the page?


Click on Darfur or any country you are interested in under World Conflicts Today. This is another great resource - perhaps for a Government, English or Sociology class assignment.

Is there a visual SlideShow available for each country?


This concludes the tutorial on How to Use the History Study Center database. Please don't forget to type your name and print out the Certificate of Completion, have it signed by a Reference Librarian in the PRC Library.

Click the forward arrow at the bottom of this page for your certificate. You may also email a copy to yourself.


Happy Searching! Please ask at the Library Reference Desk if you need help!


Please enter your name and email address to retrieve a copy of your completed quiz.

You can enter multiple email addresses separated by commas. If you are doing this for a class, you may need to enter your instructor's email address also.


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