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Forces: Imperialism: Research

Guide created for Forces that Shaped the Modern World, Winter 21-22 unit on Imperialism.

Start by looking at your topic from a wide lens. As you gather research, narrow down your focus based on the amount of evidence that you find. Make a list of keywords as you read! Check out this research organizer for more help organizing your focus.

Consider searching imperialism or colonialism AND Congo, or your area of focus. Search for the name of the colonizer (Great Britiain, Belgium, etc.). Get more specific by searching for tribal names, names of important figures, key places, etc. Search for historical place names rather than present day country names. 

To access databases and other library services from home, you will be prompted to sign-in through Lawrenceville's EZproxy. 
When you click link for a Bunn database or service, the log-in screen (pictured below) will appear.

  • Username: first part of your email address (before the Example: asinai
  • Password: your email password

Having trouble with access? Email and include a description or screenshot of your issue. 

STEP 1:  Reference sources are a great place to start your research! These resources provide a broad overview of your topic (the who, what, where, when, and why). Types of material include encyclopedias, almanacs, and dictionaries.

As you learn more, continue to gather keywords you can use to search for more complex sources. 

Online Reference Collections from Bunn Library

Browse the Imperialism shelf in Gale eBooks with curated encyclopedias related to Imperialism and Africa. 

Recommended encyclopedia articles to get started:

Encyclopedias to explore:

How to Find Print Reference Books

How do I find reference sources in print?  
All reference sources are located in the reference room. REMEMBER: they are non circulating (you can’t check them out), but you can make copies or take photos.

Bunn Library Catalog use the Advanced Search option to limit to items in the Reference Collection:

Once you locate the book, check the Index for broad subject terms that relate to your topic

Remember that you need to find a relevant article before you can cite the book!

Print encyclopedia suggestions:

STEP 2: Narrow your focus with secondary sources. These sources take a particular position, and contain an analysis of documents and material in order to support an argument. Secondary sources can be written by scholars via peer-reviewed journals, or published in newspapers and magazines written by experienced journalists.
What is a monograph? A book written by an expert (in this case, a historian) on a specific subject within their discipline. These are books you will find the library stacks. 

Scholarly Source Collections: Online Resources from Bunn Library

Tips for searching for scholarly journal articles:

  • Be intentional about your keywords - who are the important figures, or events? How could you distill your topic into the most crucial words or phrases?
  • Use the Advanced Search option whenever possible to join together keywords and key phrases. Use quotation marks around phrases to ensure all words appear together in order. Such as "dollar diplomacy" 
  • Add search filters - limit to scholarly journal articles, book chapters (avoid book reviews!) 

Academic Search Engines:

Monographs: Print and eBooks from Bunn Library

Suggested titles to get started:

For more, search for your keywords in the library catalog or eBook Central. Search for imperialism AND your country (i.e. imperialism AND Congo). Consider historical names for the regions your are researching - for example, "Belgian Congo".  

How to Find Print Books

Look for works that are written by historians and experts in your topic of interest. Check the INDEX of the book for instances of your keywords (important people, themes, etc.). 

Search the Bunn Library Catalog. Use the General Keyword search to broaden your results. For a narrower focus, search the catalog by Subject Keyword using the drop-down menu.


To find books in the stacks, look at the call number:

  • 000-399: Lower Level

  • 400-699: Main Floor

  • 700-999: Second Floor

Books on Reference Room Reserve are located on the shelves in the Reference Room, and will have a colored spine label.

Have a useful book in hand?

  • Look at the Index for additional keywords and locate where they are discussed in your book. 

  • Check the Bibliography for additional sources that are connected to your topic.

STEP 3: Primary sources the historical evidence! They can include scientific research, statistics, studies, documents (newspapers, interviews, diary entries), artifacts, or images that are of the time period you are studying. These require more advanced knowledge of the subject area to understand context.

Digital Collections

Larger collections with a wide range of material:

Africa Focus:

Primary Source Collections, Print and eBooks from Bunn Library