Help for Postgraduates

Getting started

If you are new to the library, learn how to get started quickly.

Interior shot of Radcliffe Camera

Catalogue searches

Search SOLO to locate a book in an Oxford library.

Online resources (ebooks & ejournals)

See also more information for finding online resources, such as ebooks and a list of some key history journals.

Keeping up-to-date

The History Librarian regularly posts news about new collections, databases, events, etc. to the HFL Blog where you can sign up to the mailing list.

Details of new books received in the Bodleian Library and History Faculty Library are logged on our LibraryThing page. If you use RSS feeds, then you can sign up to a number of new book alerts. More on New Acquisitions.

Those interested in Twitter and Facebook can also 'follow' and 'like' us in order to receive news items. 

Useful library services

Order from the closed book stack A large amount of library material in is held in closed stacks, which can be located on library premises or offsite. The largest closed stack is the Book Storage Facility (BSF)in Swindon which holds 8 million items. 

Scan & Deliver Instead of requesting the physical item to a reading room, you can request scans of sections direct to your desktop.

Inter-Library Loan Useful if need a book or article to be sent from another UK or international library.

Imaging Services Useful if you need high-quality photographic prints, paper prints and digital files within the Bodleian Libraries.

Training courses. A variety of sessions cover topics relating to searching SOLO, literature searching, citation management and use of electronic resources. 

Book the History Librarian For complex or research enquiries relating to History and historical sources, individuals can book a one-to-one session. Sessions can be used to discuss and solve library-related problems, explore printed and e-resources and library services, and improve information searching skills, etc.

Guide to open shelf collections for historians


Get an overview of key printed source materials, key reference works and local history society series which are on the open shelves in the Bodleian Library.

Your Thesis - what the library can do for you

Check out guides to history collections for some ideas for sources.

Browse printed sources

British & Western European history

The Upper Reading Room in the Old Bodleian Library houses the open-shelf collections for British and Western European history (medieval to 20th century). They will include printed sources, often transcribed from manuscripts, such as chronicles, individuals and family papers, papers of monasteries, statesmen, etc. It's well worth a browse to get some ideas. Browse anything in the shelfmark range K.3-10. See also the LibGuide to URR.

English local history

The Duke Humfrey's Library in the Old Bodleian Library houses the open-shelf collections for local history. They are often fantastic source materials relevant for all periods but particularly medieval and early modern. Browse anything in the shelfmark range R.Top. See also the LibGuide to the DH.

Other countries (US, Africa, Commonwealth, Middle East, Far East)

If you are interested in the histories of other countries or topics, check out the list of college and Oxford libraries useful for historians.

Access to special collections

You will be using libraries and possibly archives to locate sources and critical materials, whether locally or elsewhere, so it is worthwhile honing your search skills and learning about useful finding aids, etc. There is usually a choice of training sessions.

If you are an MSt student and you are going to be using the manuscripts and rare books collections of the Bodleian Library, then check that your card gives you access to Special Collections. If you have an S card, you will need to get your card upgraded.  Email with the name of your course, the title/subject of your dissertation and the name of your supervisor.

Using the British Library (BL)

Consider using Britain's national library, the British Library nr St Pancras in London. You can search their catalogue online (Explore The BL). The BL have many databases which are not available in Oxford. Check out the HFL tips on how to get started at the BL.

Faculty guidance on the presentation of essays, dissertations and thesis

It pays to learn early on what style conventions the History Faculty requires and what tools to use to collate and organise your citations.

Reference Management Software

Constructing a bibliography? Don't let the citations overwhelm you. There are tools to help. See the Managing Your References LibGuide

Getting support from the libraries

Library inductions are offered at the start of the new academic year. Throughout the year, training courses in managing citations, use of electronic resources, etc. are offered. See our schedule for details.

Seek help

Library staff are very happy to help you with literature searches, finding source materials, use library catalogues, databases, ejournals, etc. You can contact us in a variety of ways. You can also arrange a one-to-one session with the History Librarian (e:, t: (01865) 277294).

Open Access (OA)

The University of Oxford academic community is strongly committed to ensuring the widest possible access to its research. Learn more about OA, what it is, how it works and what it means for you on the Open Access Oxford website.

Some useful resources

Finding books

  • Library Hub Discovery - search over 130 UK and Irish academic, national and specialist library catalogues (includes the British Library)
  • Explore the British Library - search the catalogue, incl. newspaper catalogue of Britain's national library
  • WorldCat - major union library catalogue with details of hundreds of US and international library catalogues, incl. Library of Congress
  • Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue - German libraries but also European national library catalogues in a single search

Finding journal articles

> access any of these and more.


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