First, make sure you have a library card. Then, go to your library’s website and search its catalog for sources that might be helpful. Oftentimes, your library will have several databases on its website, too. Once you have a clear enough idea of at least one or two sources you think are available for you, take a trip to the library. Check out the shelves on which your sources are located, as there will likely be many more that you didn’t see online. Make sure you ask a librarian for help, since s/he will know much more about the library’s resources.
Here are some other places to look for information on your topic:
Newspaper archives. The CPL website has free access to archives of the Chicago Tribune and other Chicago-based newspapers.
The Chicago History Museum. It has a wealth of Chicago-oriented archives. It also has a “Research Center,” where students can gain access to all sorts of primary sources and guidance. Appointments are required beforehand.
Here are some awesome source lists you should know about:
Encyclopedia of Chicago: This is a secondary source with articles about anything Chicago-history related. It also has a wealth of primary sources embedded in it, and you can zoom in as though you’re viewing microfiche. Highly recommended.
Explore Chicago Collections: This is a central “shopping mall” for special collections in Chicago. You can search for your topic and find out which library/institution carries a special collection related to your topic and what the sources are. Special Collections are homes for very old, primary sources. They often have fragile artifacts and sometimes you have to wear gloves to handle them. You don’t want to miss this.
Recommended Websites for Primary Sources on Chicago History, courtesy of the Chicago Metro History Fair. They’ve done the work of filtering for you.
Recommended Books on Chicago History, broken down by topic, also courtesy of the CMHF.
The Internet. This may seem obvious, but make sure you’ve done Google searching on your topic and the key words it relates to. For instance, if your topic is Jane Addams, your key words might be: labor, Progressive Movement, women’s right, urban poverty, Hull House, Chicago.
When you’re doing online research, it’s crucial to know whether the website you’re viewing is credible (i.e., does it have a good reputation?) or not.
Here is a list of ways to evaluate a website’s credibility.