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History-Finding Primary Sources for Historical Research

Pointers to Start

  • Background information Review encyclopedia articles or secondary journal articles to give you context and framework to interpret a primary source. Check these same sources for primary sources in footnotes and citations.                                
  • Search Catalogs: Start with your home institution and then expand to special libraries and archives. Some of this material may be in digital format and open  access.

Pointers for Searching the Library Catalog

Date: Check the date of original publication to see if it matches the type period you are studying. If there is an author for your work, check birth/death dates to see if  they correspond to the time period you are researching. (note: if the work is facsimile or reprint, you may have a primary source. Limiting sources to a specific date or date range  will help you to locate contemporary sources published at the time of an event.
Author: Search a person's name by author (not subject). With this search, you may find diaries, correspondence, personal narratives, etc..
Primary Source Words:   Often found in the subject heading of a record, here are some examples:
    • autobiographies
    • collected works
    • correspondence
    •  diaries
    • documents
    • facsimilies
    • interviews
    • journal
    • letters
    • manuscripts
    • memoirs
    • notebooks
    • pamplets
    •  personal narratives
    • sources
    • speeches.  

      Pair these terms with the appropriate keyword or subject heading. 

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Mary Sepulveda's picture
Mary Sepulveda
Contact:
206.296.6209

Coordinator of Collection Development

and Special Collections