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History - Modern


Take some time to make sure that you understand your assignment instructions.

1. Look for directive words such as "account for" and "critically evaluate".

2. Look for content words. These are usually nouns that tell you what the subject area is and where you should focus your research and reading.

3. And look for limiting words. These define the scope of the questions, tell you which areas to concentrate on and what should be left out. Limits also include word length and submission date.

This list will give you a more comprehensive understanding of instruction words.

Once you have highlighted key nouns in your assignment question take some time to think of alternative words. This will help you once you start searching. For example, alternate words for Indigenous maybe First Nations or Aboriginal.

Many of us are visual learners so consider making a visual map of your ideas and information. It also helps to visualise any gaps in your knowledge. Here are a couple of free online tools you may like to try;

Primary sources

These provide firsthand evidence of an event or topic. Examples of a primary source are things like a physical artefact (eg a fossil or furniture), a diary, an email, a journal article which contains original thought and/or discoveries, a newspaper article written at the time, a original document (eg.a birth certificate), and a documentary record such photograph or a video.

Secondary sources 

Are items that are produced after an event has happened. It may offer an interpretation or evaluation of a primary source. It may also provide commentary or discuss evidence. Examples of secondary sources are things like a journal article which provides commentary but does not contain original thought or discoveries. Many of the book you'll find in the MQ Library are secondary sources.

Tertiary sources

Are publications that summarize information from primary and secondary sources. Encyclopedias and dictionaries are good examples of this type of source.


The MQ Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations has specialised advice about writing and referencing

Also, the MQ Learning Skills team run Writing Workshops through the year

And finally, the MQ Library has an excellent collection of ebooks and books


Referencing is an integral part of academic writing, and involves giving recognition to the source of anyone else's ideas that you have used or quoted in your work.

Chicago Referencing style is a common style used in the area of History

And there are several software programs that allow you to collect, save and automate your referencing. EndNote and Mendeley are available to students at MQ for free. Download the software and follow our instructions here

Self-paced Online Study @MQ

StudyWISE is a self-paced skill building module designed to extend your research skills and deepen your understanding of academic study.

Workshops & Skills Training

MQ offers free learning skills and writing workshops. These workshops cover essentials, such as time management, effective note taking, assignment writing, accurate referencing, and academic language.

More help on searching at MQ Library

Our guide on using MultiSearch will give you more tips on searching and finding