Essay Guide
Québec History
Civilisation Occidentale
About Claude Bélanger


Guide to Essay Writing and Research

Notes on Research and Bibliographical Work

The part of your Paper that should take you the longest to do is the research. Without proper research you cannot achieve good results, regardless of your ability to write well! Your reader will soon be able to tell that you have nothing of significance to say, that you know virtually nothing about the subject.

Given the importance of this phase of your Paper, start early before everybody has raided our Library (and that of McGill, Concordia, etc.) seeking the same material as you and before the pressure of writing other papers (or exams) becomes overwhelming. Nine weeks always seems to be a long time to write a paper, but you will soon realise that it descends on you in no time at all! A subject cannot be properly researched and analysed, then a paper written in one weekend. If you got away with this before, it is unlikely you will be successful with this “method” at College and University.

Your sources of information should be varied and specialized. A specialized source in one written by a professional historian who is an expert on your subject. The source has to be written specifically on your subject or, alternatively, on your period with an elaborate discussion of your issue. Consequently, this excludes encyclopaedias, general histories, newspaper articles and material not written by a specialist historian directed at the general public. These “general” sources may be used as general background before you start your research; they will give you an idea of the kind of information you will be seeking and help you formulate more precisely your research question and hypotheses.

If the subject lends itself to it, try to use at least one primary source. Such a source is an original document (often printed), written by a contemporary of the events you will be studying; the views of such an informant have not been distilled by the analysis of an historian. At the College level, you should start to formulate your answers without going solely through secondhand information.

Our Library is quite adequate for serious research in the fields of Canadian/Quebec histories provided you are serious in looking for good sources of information and you start early enough. Before you decide that there is nothing available, likely because you cannot find anything, consult with the Library staff who will be delighted to help you in your search. Alternatively, come to see me.

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Technology put at your disposal in the Library:

There has been an astounding revolution in the library field in the last ten years; a good deal of this has been the result of the introduction of a variety of new technologies and tools which libraries now put at the disposal of their users. It is not my purpose to describe these new tools as they evolve so rapidly that, no sooner would I describe them that they will be superseded!

When compiling your bibliography, consult with the Library staff to use the various indexes and databases that we have available on-line in the Library and that are accessible from home. We have on-line connections to McGill and Concordia libraries, access to the holdings of a vast network of other institutions, possibilities to download material from a variety of sources (including the Internet), etc.

Unfortunately, the material that can be reached through the new technology varies in quantity and quality according to the subject you are dealing with. The more international a subject, the more it will be of great help to you. In Canadian history, and especially in Quebec history, it is of a more limited use so that the more traditional methods of bibliographical research, more often than not, will have to be applied. The following few pages describe ways, means and processes that should be followed.

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The easiest to find are good books. Our Catalogue is fully computerised and the system is easy to use. Yet, it is amazing how much more material some students can find using the same tools as their classmates. In large part that is because they know more about their subject than the others. The more you know about something, the more you increase your chances of finding material about it. So the first thing to do is to inform yourself about your subject (hence the use of encyclopaedias, general histories...) so that you can do a wider search in our Library catalogue.

When you have found a source that seems to be first rate, consult its bibliography and the table of contents; they will suggest other avenues to pursue your investigation. If there is no bibliography in your “first rate source” that is a good sign that it is not appropriate for you to use! When you have gathered a few books in this fashion, check to see if there have been book reviews made of them. Consult the Book Review Digest or Index. You may go directly to the Canadian Historical Review and/or to the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française; both have indexes of their own and you will be able to ascertain rapidly how the book was received by the scholarly journals. As a rule, it takes one to two years for a book to be reviewed in Canada in the periodicals mentioned above.

Another good source of information on the quality of the author/book you have found is to check it out in the following:

  • Paul STEVENS, and J.L. GRANATSTEIN, A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History. Vol. 1. Beginning to Confederation, 1982, 253p. Vol. 2. Confederation to the Present, 1982, 328p. There are periodic editions of this work. You will find other similar volumes in the Reference section.

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Scholarly Journals:

Do not underestimate the usefulness of these periodicals. Authors often summarize their latest findings and views in a short article written in one of the many scholarly journals. If you do not use these periodicals, you cut yourself off from a major source of information, sometimes the only source of information that exists on your subject.

The Library has a large collection of scholarly journals that are of great use for Canada/Quebec subjects. Many of these are indexed in a variety of places (consult the Library staff on this) and some make indexes of their own periodically.

Most useful Canada/Quebec scholarly journals held in our Library:

  • Acadiensis: as the name implies, this is about Atlantic Canada; it has excellent historiographical articles.
  • American Review of Canadian Studies: discusses a variety of subjects from literature, to politics and history. Articles are written by American University professors who teach and specialize in Canadian subjects.
  • B.C. Studies: All subjects with a British Columbia focus. There is a great deal of history included; especially strong on immigration and Asians.
  • Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science: one of Canada’s oldest journal, now defunct. Contained much of interest in economic history and on Constitutional aspects.
  • Canadian Journal of Political Science: continues the preceding journal but deals exclusively with political subjects.
  • Canadian Catholic Historical Association, Reports: has a great variety of subjects, all with a religious angle. A gold mine for Quebec history. The Reports have two separate sections, one in French and one in English. Check them both as the articles are not the same.
  • Canadian Ethnic Studies: has very interesting articles on the history of immigration in Canada and on minority groups. This Journal is at the forefront of the new social history being written in Canada. This is a periodical useful for many of the subjects that I assign.
  • Canadian Historical Association, Reports (or Papers): these are the proceedings of the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Society. The papers submitted span a very wide spectrum, including non Canadian subjects. Much of interest here.
  • Canadian Historical Review: this is Canada’s oldest surviving historical journal. It is indexed separately thus easy to use. Every imaginable subject has been dealt with. Become familiar with this periodical as no serious Canadian History student can ignore this one.
  • Canadian Public Policy: has many articles on political, constitutional and linguistic issues in Canada. This could be useful for many of your other classes as well.
  • Canadian Public Administration: similar to the one immediately above.
  • Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology: has some articles on aspects of social, ethnic and cultural history.
  • Canadian Studies on Nationalism: that we had a journal entirely devoted to this subject speaks volumes about Canada. Of great interest for aspects of Quebec history. (Note: the Library does not hold this Journal anymore)
  • Culture: this was a bilingual journal, with articles written in French primarily. Broad number of subjects were discussed. Of far wider use than its title would suggest.
  • Dalhousie Review: this is one of Canada’s oldest periodicals. Dominated by articles on literature; however, articles of great interest to the student of history are printed from time to time. Strong on Maritimes’ history.
  • Journal of Canadian Studies: has many articles of interest to history students. Lively and provocative in many respects. Has entire issues devoted to a single subject with many specialists contributing. Never neglect this one. Keeps a very serious eye on Quebec. This is a bilingual periodical with about 20% of articles written in French.
  • Ontario History: the title is self explanatory.
  • Ottawa University Review (Revue de l’Université d’Ottawa): publishes a wide variety of articles, many of which are of interest to the Canadian/Quebec history student. Has many articles on language issues, especially about the history of French minorities throughout Canada.
  • Queen’s Quarterly: another venerable journal in Canada. Wide variety of subjects including history. A good deal on various aspects of Quebec.
  • Recherches sociographiques: more than a sociological journal, this is a journal about Quebec. Has much of interest to the Quebec history student. All articles are in French.
  • Relations Industrielles: a bilingual periodical, primarily written in French. Has a good deal of material on Canada/Quebec labour history.
  • Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française: This is Québec’s premier historical periodical. This journal is of a quality matched only by the Canadian Historical Review and Canadian Ethnic Studies. If you are working on an aspect of Quebec history, this is a must for you. Printed in French.
  • Royal Society of Canada, Transactions: eminent association of Canada that publishes articles in both of Canada’s official languages on a variety of subjects.
  • Saskatchewan History: Has a good deal of material on Native issues, the Prairies and Riel. These are fairly standard subjects in Canadian history.
  • Social History (Histoire Sociale): great variety of subjects, at times a little eclectic. Published in both languages.
  • Transactions of the Historical Society of Manitoba: Prairie history for the most part.

The difficulty with scholarly journals is that the material is very scattered and relevant articles are sometimes difficult to find; after all, they are not listed in the Library catalogue. For the journals that are individually indexed, search directly in these indexes. The problem is that indexes are published only every ten years or so; thus you are usually missing the most current material. Furthermore, most of the journals are not individually indexed. For these periodicals follow this procedure:

  1. Consult Claude THIBAULT, Bibliographia Canadiana. You will find this in the Reference section of the Library. The author has compiled an amazingly complete bibliography of works useful in Canadian history. Documents, books and articles, if published before 1971, are included. This is a real gold mine. However, for anything later than 1971, it will not be useful. (Reserve Reference 016.971 T485 [two copies])
  2. Check if there is a specialized bibliography on your subject. Many subjects of Canadian/Quebec history have had their bibliographers. These are usually wonderful and very complete. Check the relevant section in the Reference section of the Library.
  3. For anything printed between 1966 and 1985 consult Paul AUBIN, Bibliographie de l’histoire du Québec et du Canada, this runs into several volumes by now; we do not have all of them in the Library. These come from bibliographies originally published in the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française. They are computer generated, with all of the advantages and the defects inherent to this technology. (Reference 016.971 A894B volumes 1 and 2)
  4. Another method, for anything printed in the scholarly journals after 1975, is to consult the substantial Canadian Periodical Index. This is an invaluable source. Ask the Reference librarian to show you how to use these.
  5. For very current material that might not be indexed as yet in any of the standard sources, you might look up the current issues of the Canadian Historical Review, the Canadian Catholic Historical Association, Reports, the Canadian Ethnic Studies and the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française. Each of these has elaborate bibliographies of current material, divided by subjects, in each issue.

I require that you find, and use, a substantial number of scholarly articles for your assigned bibliography and to write your Paper.

Get used to working with scholarly journals and with the tools necessary to reach them. This will prove to be useful to you already at this stage of your studies; they are likely to be essential to your success in the future. Never hesitate to ask the Library staff to help you in this task. They will be delighted to teach to you those skills that will prove to be so important to your future success.

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Statistical Material:

If you are looking for statistical evidence of a historical nature, consult one or more of the following:

  • Historical Atlas of Canada, three volumes have been published so far. There are maps of all types. It is also a gold mine of statistical information. You will find that in the Reference section of the Library. (Atlas Stand 911.71 H673 volumes 1 - 3)
  • Gérard BERNIER and Robert BOILY, Le Québec en chiffres de 1850 à nos jours, ACFAS, 1986, 389p. Excellent source. Only available in my office at the present time. Do not hesitate to see me about it.
  • M. C. URQUHART and K. A. C. BUCKLEY, Historical Statistics of Canada, the latest edition was in 1984. Excellent general source. (Reference 317.1 U79 1983)
  • Canada Year Book, these have been published since 1885. Printed by the Government of Canada yearly for a long time. Now printed every few years. This is where you will find the latest, and simplest, information about Canada (social, demographical, economical and political). (Government Documents 317.1 C212 [1873 - 1990], Reference 317.1 C212 [1992-1997])
  • L’annuaire statistique du Québec. The equivalent for Québec of the Canada Year Book. Has been published since 1914. (Government Documents 317.14 Q31A [1917 - 1978], Reference 317.14 Q31A [1985 - 1995])
  • Census Reports. The Library has extensive holdings of these. There is hardly a subject where useful information would not be found in the Census Reports.

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If you are looking for information of a biographical nature to get you started on a subject, or if you want fast information on a person whose name you have encountered in one of your readings, consult one or more of the following found in the Reference section of the Library:

  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography. This massive undertaking is complete to 1920. The volumes are divided according to the date of death of the people listed. Our national biographical dictionary stands as a monument of scholarship in the works of reference available in the libraries of Canada. It represents the high achievement of the historical profession in Canada and can rank alongside the biographical dictionaries of the most advanced countries of the world with a long historical tradition. Become familiar with this great work of Canadian academia. The Dictionary is now available on-line. (Reference 971B D554 volumes 1 - 13, index)
  • Canadian Encyclopedia, has four volumes, last edited in 1988. It is excellent for short entries on a great variety of Canadian subjects. The Encyclopedia is now available on-line. (Reference 917.1 E56C2 1988 volumes 1 - 4)
  • Canadian Parliamentary Guide, published annually since 1901. Contains short biographies of all federal and provincial politicians sitting in the Canadian Parliament or a provincial legislature.
  • Encyclopedia Canadiana, 10 volumes. Somewhat outdated but still useful for some subjects. (Reference 917.1 E56C 1970 volumes 1 - 10)
  • J. K. JOHNSON, The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967, Ottawa, 1968, 731p. Provides short biographies of all the federal members of Parliament in the first century of Confederation. (Reference 328.71 A2C21C)
  • Répertoire des Parlementaires Québécois,1867-1978, Québec, 1980, 796p. Provides biographies of all members of the National Assembly since Confederation. (Reference 328.714 R425)
  • Norah STORY, The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature, Oxford, 1967, 935p. Short biographies but useful. (Reference C810.3 S887)

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Current Affairs:

The Library keeps a number of sources that can help you deal with current affairs (in history this is the last 20-30 years!). We keep the Montreal Gazette and Le Devoir. Indeed, in the case of Le Devoir, our collection is extensive and goes back to nearly the founding of the paper. For Quebec history, this is invaluable and many a research project can focus on this unique source of information. Databases, such as CBCA and Repères, should prove useful to find articles published in newspapers. Consult the reference librarian on this point.

The Library also holds a number of useful periodicals, some dating quite far back in time, which you will find of use when writing on a current issue. Magazines such as L’Actualité, Maclean’s, Saturday Night, Canadian Forum, Time, Relations will prove useful. All are indexed in the Canadian Periodical Index.

For Quebec history we have collections of Action française, and its successor Action nationale. These two periodicals were (and the latter still is) at the heart of the nationalist movement in Quebec.

The Library keeps a running subscription to Canadian Speeches as well. If it was said by somebody important in Canada, and the issue is of significance, it will be found in that source.

In Canadian history, the most interesting source of “current” information is the Canadian Annual Review. (Reference 971.06 C212 1901 to date) This was published annually between 1900 and 1940, and again since 1960. Every year, the editor reviews all of the major events of the past year. If it happened in Canada, it will be in this source. Become familiar with this work, it is essential to study contemporary Canada. A word of caution: the earlier volumes, edited by Castell Hopkins, were more “folksy” and lacked the detached, objective approach, that characterized the later volumes. The editor was Conservative, Imperialist and not very tolerant when it came to issues related to Quebec and French minorities. He detested Henri Bourassa who is now considered one of Canada’s great nationalist forerunners and an early proponent of bilingualism and biculturalism. Use it with care.

Since 1987, Denis MONIERE has edited a Quebec version of the Canadian Annual Review. It is entitled L’Année politique du Québec. It is an excellent source to follow the political, linguistic and economic situation of Quebec. Another great source of information, similar to having a newspaper summary of events, is the Canadian News Facts (Reference 317.1 C213) that is published annually since 1967. The great thing about it is that it is fully indexed. Thus, you can follow a specific issue from year to year, or the career of an important Canadian. Students of politics and current Canadian history have to become familiar with this source of information.

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Government Documents:

There are many types of government documents that can be of use to you. Among others are:

  • Various federal and provincial reports. You must look under the individual name of the Commission that produced the Report. 
  • The Statutes of Canada and the Lois refondues du Québec. We have a large holding of these although the collection is not complete.
  • Debates of the Parliament of Canada and of the National Assembly. Again our collection is not complete but includes many useful debates for various issues that I assign as subjects from time to time.
  • Journal of the Houses for the Federal Parliament and for the National Assembly. 
  • Sessional Documents. Check these carefully if you have a subject where this may be pertinent.

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Notes on the Library:

The Library is at the heart of our Academic institution. In part, your success depends on your becoming familiar with its services. The Library staff, along with your teachers, are there to initiate you into the world of knowledge. Never hesitate to rely on them. Respect the rules of the Library. Think twice before taking material illegally from the Library; you will hurt your classmates by doing this, and you risk being caught and having a black mark on your record at the College. Many of the books and journals that disappear are irreplaceable. Photocopying is very inexpensive. If you need material for longer that the usual rules would allow, discuss it with me. Remember that all of my books and periodicals are available to you; just come to see me in my office.

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Contents | Four steps of Essay Writing | Essay Writing Tips |
Essay Evaluation Scheme | Plagiarism and Essay Writing |
Notes on Research and Bibliographical Work | Sample Title Page



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College