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Prof. Schreier's courses: a research guide

A guide to resources for research assignments in Prof. Schreier's courses.

Choosing a Topic

If you don't know yet what you want to research, the books, articles, and other resources that you've already looked at for this class are a good place to start. They might include something you want to explore further, or you might realize that they don't include something that you want to find more about.

It's important to find a topic that's relevant to the class and within the parameters of the assignment—but you know that already. The trickier part is probably going to be finding the sweet spot between too broad and too narrow.

You need to narrow your topic down to a manageable size, but there has to be enough to write about. How do you do that? A good way to begin is to start searching for relevant sources in a database like Historical Abstracts. Even if you already have an idea about your topic, it can be useful to use the broadest search terms relating to that topic at first to see what's out there. Once you have some search results in front of you, take some time to explore what you see. Articles that don't have the exact key words you're looking for might still have useful information, or they might point you in a new direction. You can always narrow your scope based on what you find.

Searching for Sources

You can find a lot of useful journals, databases, and other places to look for sources at the tabs on the left of this page. Spend some time exploring them! 

Professor Schreier recommends that you primarily use sources that were written between the mid 1990s and the present. There isn't a strict cutoff date, but it's generally a good idea to limit your searches this way. This is for a few reasons—firstly, earlier scholarship on the Middle East is more likely to take an Orientalist approach. And secondly, more up-to-date research is going to incorporate older sources that might be important and bring them into the current scholarly conversation. 

Historical Abstracts (also linked under the "Scholarship" tab) is especially powerful because it allows you to search by the historical period you're looking for in addition to when the articles were written. 

More tips for searching:

  • Use asterisks in your search terms to find variations of words. Ex) A search for "Zionis*" will return results with both "Zionism" and "Zionist."
  • Use Boolean operators OR, AND, and NOT. Ex) A search term like "goals OR objectives OR aims" might be more efficient than searching for each of those terms individually.
  • Searching within a database or within LibrarySearch is the easiest way to find out if the library already has access to a book or article, but there might be times when you choose to use a broader search engine like Google Scholar. If you do find an article through one of those external sources and you get to a paywall, see if we subscribe to the journal it's published in by going to the Journals page of the library website. (If we don't, you can always request it through interlibrary loan.)
  • If you know what your topic is but need help finding search terms, look through the index of a book you were assigned in class or one that you've determined is relevant. This is a good way to find out which words researchers tend to use to describe various subjects. You can also look to see if an article you've found online has subject headings or keywords listed—if it does, you can search using these terms.
  • Look at the citations of the resources that you find to get to more resources. This is called citation tracing.
  • Using AI tools like ChatGPT to find sources is generally not a good idea, as they often will come up with plausible-sounding titles that do not actually exist.
  • Check out the Vassar Libraries' Evaluating Sources guide for more general tips and strategies for working with sources.

Getting Help from the Libraries

You can chat with the librarians online through our website anytime from 10-4 on weekdays. You can also email us at or text us at 845-412-8926 and we'll reply during normal business hours. This is a great option if you have quick questions about things like accessing an online database, using interlibrary loan, or connecting with library resources from off campus.

For more in-depth questions, we recommend setting up a research consultation with a librarian. You can do this at our Ask a Librarian page, or you can email Carollynn Costella, the liaison librarian for the History department, at