Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HIST 3770 Pandemic! Infectious Disease in Global History (Roth): Finding Secondary Sources: Books

Databases for Books

GILFind:  the catalog of the UGA Libraries' holdings. 

WorldCat: if you don’t find enough resources in GILFind, try WorldCat, the world's most comprehensive bibliography, a combined catalog of books and other resources held by thousands of libraries worldwide.  Books not owned by the UGA Libraries can be requested from Interlibrary Loan.


Tips for Searching GILFind

In designing a search, you should think about how to strike the right balance between making the search broad enough that you don't exclude anything important for your topic, but narrow enough to avoid getting too many irrelevant results.  These tips give you ideas for broadening or narrowing your search.

  • Try your search several different ways, even if you get good results on the first try.  There's almost always more or better material available than you can find in just one search.
  • Use the advanced search option to help you construct more complex or precise searches.
  • Divide your topic into concept groups.  The advanced search option is best for this kind of expanded search.  For example, if your topic is comparing American and British public health responses to the 1918 influenza pandemic, you have six concepts: America + Britain + public health + influenza + pandemic + 1918.  Instead of entering just one keyword for each concept, use multiple synonyms where appropriate to get more results, such as
    • America, United States
    • Britain, England
    • public health, health policy, epidemiology
    • influenza, flu
    • pandemic, epidemic, outbreak
    • 1918 (see explanation below about searching by date). 
  • Use the truncation/wildcard symbol * (asterisk) to find multiple forms of your keywords.  For example, health* will search for health, healthy, healthiness, healthcare, etc. 
  • Pick a few of the most relevant titles from your search and look at their subject headings to get ideas for more search terms to try.  Each subject heading is a link that you can click, but you may get more results if you mix and match individual terms in a new search.
  • The "browse shelf" option near the bottom of the screen for each book shows what books are located nearby on the shelf.  You may find books this way that you wouldn't find with search terms.  You can also browse the real library shelves, but you won't find ebooks on them.
  • If you get too many results or irrelevant results, you can narrow your search by adding another concept.  Too many results may also suggest that your topic is too broad, so adding another concept will help refine your topic as well as your search.
  • The "refine results" menu on the left of your results list gives you additional choices for limiting your search results, such as limiting by language or by date published.
  • It can be difficult to limit your search by historical time period:
    • Try terms for major epidemics with specific dates, like Black Death.  But if you're interested in a health problem that was ongoing, such as the plague epidemics that persisted in Europe for several hundred years after the Black Death, this approach won't work.
    • Try terms like "20th" for twentieth century, but this is very broad.
    • Try terms for eras, like "colonial" or "Renaissance," but again these terms are very broad and can refer to multiple time periods.
    • Many books have subject headings that list specific range of years, such as 1910-1921 or 1969-1994.  But this can vary greatly from one book to another, even among books on the same topic, so it's hard to predict what dates to try.
    • And some books are merely assigned the not-very-helpful heading of "history."  There's no magic solution to this problem; you just have to do the best you can!


Search Terms


Keywords that describe a book or an article can be found in its title, subject headings, table of contents, abstract, etc., and these are the fields that computer search engines search to find matches for the search terms you enter.  Sometimes the best keywords are just what you expect them to be, and your search retrieves plenty of relevant results.  But sometimes the keywords that will bring back the best results can be difficult to come up with.  Here is some advice about what keywords to use for topics related to the history of pandemics and infectious disease.  You may need to use multiple terms to get enough relevant results.

Terms for medical topics:

  • Public health, global health, medical geography, health services, health education, disaster medicine, health care rationing, social medicine, medicine popular, traditional medicine, self-care
  • Epidemics, pandemics, disease outbreaks, communicable disease
  • Physicians, nurses, nursing, pharmacists, patients, hospitals
  • Drugs, materia medica, medicine, narcotics, patent medicines, nostrums, pharmacology, pharmacy, plants medicinal, self-medication, treatment
  • Also try terms for specific diseases: plague, tuberculosis, yellow fever, etc.

Terms for women

  • Basic terms:  try variant forms of words when you search, such as woman and women, or female and feminine; you can also make your search more precise with terms like young women, older women, single women, etc.
  • Family roles:  daughters, grandmothers, sisters, wives, etc.
  • Social and occupational roles:  housewives, midwives, mistresses, nuns, prostitutes, queens, etc.  You can also put the word "women" in front of almost any role, such as women healers, women murderers, or women soldiers.

Terms for economic, social, and other types of life conditions:
Civilization, conduct of life, economic aspects, economic conditions, health and hygiene, intellectual life, life and customs, manners and customs,  material culture, social aspects, social classes, social conditions, social life

Geographical Terms

  • Use both the noun and adjective forms of a term.  Sometimes you can do this with the truncation symbol (*), as in "Brit*" for both Britain and British.  With other terms, you have to enter each one, as in Ireland and Irish, France and French, etc.
  • Use both United States and America for American history topics.  It may also help to put "United States" in quotation marks to search it as a phrase and to use the truncation symbol to get multiple forms of America* (America, American, Americanist etc.)
  • If your research focuses on a region of the United States, use individual state names as well as collective terms like Southern States or Middle West (not Midwest!) 
  • Use historical as well as modern names:  French West Africa, Indochina, Ottoman Empire, Prussia, Soviet Union

Terms for Time Periods
It can be difficult to limit your search by historical time periods because there is so much unpredictable variety of keywords.  Some books have keywords by century (e.g., 19th century).  Some may list a historical era, such as the Gilded Age.  Many have specific date ranges like 1865-1918, but these ranges vary too much from one book to another to be very helpful for searching.  And many books simply have the vague heading of “history.”  There's no magic solution to this problem; you just have to do the best you can!

Terms for primary sources:
addresses, correspondence, diaries, early works, interviews, letters, memoirs, personal narratives, sources
The phrase "personal narratives" is especially helpful for finding diaries and letters related to war.



In an ideal world, every book that you identify as important to your research will be readily available when you need it.  In reality, you are almost certain to encounter difficulties at from time to time.  Here are some common problems with suggested solutions

What if...?

The book you need is already checked out to someone else?

  • You can recall it.  As soon as the other borrower has had the book for two weeks, the library will notify that individual to return it as soon as possible, and then the book will be held for you.  Fines for not returning recalled books are high, so most people do return them promptly!
  • You can borrow the book from another University System of Georgia library through GIL Express.  Sometimes this is quicker than recalling it.

The book you need isn't checked out to anyone else, but it's not on the shelf either?

  • Check the sorting shelves located near the elevator on each floor.
  • If you still can't find the book, you can request a search for it.
  • Or you can borrow it from another University System of Georgia library through GIL Express.  Sometimes this is the quicker option.

You need a book shelved at the Libraries' Repository?

  • The Repository is a storage facility located off campus.  You can request to have books brought back from it so that you can check them out.  This typically takes 24 hours, not including weekends.

You need a book, but you don't have time to go find it on the shelf?

  • You can use the book retrieval service and pick up the book at the check-out desk of the campus library of your choice.

The UGA Libraries don't own the book you need?

  • You can borrow it from another University System of Georgia library through GIL Express.
  • If no library in the USG has the book, you can borrow it from a library elsewhere through Interlibrary Loan.
  • You can request that the UGA Libraries purchase the book and add it to the collection.  This option depends on funding and availability of the book, but requests are filled whenever possible.

You can't remember when the books you checked out are due to be returned?

  • You can check your account online.  When your books are due, you can often renew them online as well.

This information is all about print books.  Doesn't the library have any ebooks?

  • Yes, the library has a growing collection of ebooks.  When you see the words "online access" in GILFind, that means you've found an ebook.
  • The library may have both an ebook and a print book for the same title, but each format will have its own catalog record, so be sure to scan your list of search results carefully to see which format(s) the library has.
  • You might think that any number of people can all use an ebook at the same time, and that you can download or print as much of an ebook as you need.  Unfortunately, publishers, not the UGA Libraries, determine settings for ebooks, and some allow only one user at a time and limit how many pages you can download or print.  If you are having trouble accessing the full text of an ebook, ask a librarian for help!