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HISD18 Digital History

This guide will help you to find the resources needed to complete your research assignments.

More Helpful Info

These resources can help you find more useful information:

Toronto Guide

Scarborough Guide

Finding Primary Sources

Search Terms & Strategies

Search terms should be the most important words/concepts in your topic.

  • Some key terms for your topics will include place names (where a person came from, where they travelled, where they settled).
  • Other key terms will be those that describe the movement of people: immigration, emigration, migration; migrant; mobility; movement; journey;  transit, transportation. Using an asterisk (*) will be helpful when searching for these kinds of terms (see below). E.g. *migra* can find results for im/em/migration/migrant/s.

Then think about the other ideas that are key to your topic and brainstorm synonyms to generate a variety of search terms.


To find primary sources in the library catalogue, such as memoirs, autobiographies, etc., use your search terms, then refine results by genre (look for genre near the bottom on the left hand side of the refining tool).

Within genre, look for correspondence, interviews, personal narratives, and biography can also include autobiographies.


Search Tips:

Combine your search terms using AND, OR, NOT:

AND - narrows your search and makes it more specific by finding results with all of your keywords. Example search: apples AND oranges. Items that contain BOTH terms will be found.

OR - can be used to combine synonyms or different terms for the same concept. Example search: oranges OR tangerines OR clementines. Items that contain all of the words will be found.

NOT - used to narrow a search by exclusion. The NOT operator should be used with caution. Example search: apples NOT oranges. Items that contain the word "apples" will be found, but items that contain the word "oranges" will not be found.

* - The * (asterisk) is used to search for alternate endings of words, which will expand your search and look for more options. Example search: Canad*. This search will give you results for Canada, Canadian, Canadians, Canadiana, etc.

" " - The " " (quotation marks) are used to search for an exact phrase. Example search: "indentured servant". The results will contain that phrase, but not items with both words appearing separately.

Online Collections

Searching Newspapers

Newspaper articles, whether they chronicle events or discuss opinions, can be a valuable source of historical information.