Start here, in the library. Always. See below for my warnings about using the Internet for serious research.
Browsing the Stacks
I cannot recommend this too highly. You should browse through the actual stacks, once you have your research topic in mind. Get in the habit of this. Even when you have a specific book in mind, its call number in hand, take the time to look at the books nearby. You will deepen your research thereby.
The Library of Congress cataloging system is wonderfully useful, but it can be bewildering to someone who does not use it often. I present here some reference material that may make your research easier.
First of all: the letters are significant. Everything in D, for example, deals with European or Asian or African history. E and F are for the New World. Other letters cover other topics and you will find historical works in those areas, but for a European history course you should plan on paying a visit to the D section.
Within D the books are grouped by country. Here's a quick reference list:
|DA||England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland|
|DB||Lands of the Habsburg Empire|
|DF||Greece and Byzantium|
|DG||Rome and Italy|
|DK||Lands of the Soviet Union|
|DP||Spain and Portugal|
|DR||The Balkans and Turkey|
Each country begins with general works, journals specific to the national history, and then proceeds chronologically for the nation as a whole. Towards the end of the national section you will find regional histories. So, if you are looking for a history of Bavaria, look in the higher numbers of the DD section.
So, what about D itself, with no following letter? That's where you will find general histories of Europe (and of the world), plus useful reference works as well as the field of historiography and the philosophy of history. D is where you will find the ever-useful, massive survey works published by the University of Cambridge, as well as most of the materials on the Crusades.
C is a good one. It, too contains a number of introductory, survey, and reference works.
B is useful for the student of pre-modern history because it covers religion. Here is where you will find most of the Reformation histories, along with works on Greek and Roman religion, "pagan" European religions, and of course the history of the Roman Catholic Church. You will also find the Bible in many formats along with commentaries on it, both medieval and modern.
H is a place I visit often because my main interests lie in social and economic topics, and H is home to the social sciences. Here, the historical books tend to be grouped, but sometimes you will find an odd stray. "History of" books are also grouped together for Law (K), Military (U), Naval (V) and so on. Here is a second table that lists at least some of the more important areas.
|G||Atlases and maps|
|GT||Manners and customs|
|HD-HJ||Other economics topics|
|HQ-HV||Other social topics|
|KJ||History of Law|
|LA||History of Education|
|M, N, P||Music, Art, Literature|
|Q, R||Science, Medicine|
Go to the periodicals section. You can find titles by reading books and making notes from the bibliography. That will let you find individual articles. But the only way to find out what's in a particular journal in general is to pull the journal and look through the table of contents. Yes, the library has the ToC for many journals online. But not for the ones we tend to use, I'm afraid.
Note that the unbound journals are in alphabetical order in the periodicals room. But older copies get multiple issues bound into a single book, and these go into the stacks. And those are filed according to the Library of Congress number. Here's a sampling:
|Call Number||Journal Title|
|Viator (Medieval and Renaissance Studies)||CB3|
|Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies||CB351|
|Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Society||CB351R57a|
|Medieval and Renaissance Studies||CB361.M42|
|Past and Present||D1P37|
|Medievalia et Humanistica||D111M5|
|Sixteenth Century Journal||D219S55|
There are also journals to be found in the sections for individual nations or topic areas. If you are a history major, learn which ones deal with your research interests. Get accustomed to reading them, even if you don't always understand what's being discussed. It's like learning a foreign language: you just have to immerse yourself.
Go to the Reference section of the library. Here you will find all sorts of interesting treasures, including dictionaries of people and events, chronologies, and so on. The books here are organized on the same classification system. The only difference is, you can't check these books out. Bring your notebook.
Maps and Special Collections
There won't be much on pre-modern Europe at Albertsons Library, but at least pay a visit to these places. Other libraries might have real treasures. And don't disdain to visit the juvenile section or the curriculum resource center. Sure, you won't find ground-breaking research there, but you will sometimes find explanations of things otherwise hard to find. And sometimes it's worthwhile to cover even familiar ground from a different perspective.
Research on the Net
Start with a university library. Increasingly I find students turning to the Internet first and the library second, or even third (after CD-ROMs), or even giving up because the answer cannot be located in electronic media. For this course, break yourself of the habit.
The nature of publishing and copyright is such that scholarly journals and monographs will not appear on the Net, nor is this likely to change any time soon. Therefore, no research even begins to be complete unless you have read books and journals. Start with books, continue with books, end with books. That's where scholarly research is published.
Use the Internet only as a supplement, an additional place to look after you have done some serious research. Not only is there very little scholarly publishing on-line (there is some), but a great deal of what you find is either shoddy work, is trivial, or is outright nonsense. You will be able to pick your way through this rubbish heap and recognize the genuine treasures buried there if you have done your research and already have a basic understanding of the topic you are researching.
I'll state this plainly: do not use encyclopedias for your papers. Do not use the Internet for your papers unless I explicitly allow it.
The Internet can be used, but you must learn to use it wisely. Until I can write my own guide to judging Net sites, here's an article from Johns Hopkins University that does a pretty good job: "Evaluating Information Found on the Internet".