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History: Finding Primary Sources: Primary Sources

Book search options

Who might be interested in your topic?

Think about:

  • Local libraries (public or academic)
  • Historical societies
  • National libraries

Visit their home pages. Have they digitized materials? If they haven't digitized, have they published Finding Aids (which give you a good sense of what materials are contained in their collections)?

Mine secondary sources

If you're striking out on finding primary sources, then look for secondary sources. Journal articles and books that discuss your topic will hopefully have bibliographies directing you to their primary sources (and then you can evaluate whether you can obtain/read those sources).

Collected/Published Works

When searching a database of books, whether the catalog or Google Books or WorldCat:

  • Keywords to use in searches: diaries / journals / sources / personal narratives / correspondence / letters
  • Also, look for these words in subject headings, and follow the subject links.

History of Women Collection, on microfilm

Sourcebooks in the General Collection: A sampling

Contemporary Publications: Newspapers

The International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) has an extensive list of digitization projects. A couple examples from Europe are listed below:

Contemporary Publications: Books

The Google Books digitization project makes pre-1923 books, which are in the public domain, available for download:

Google Book Search

Subject Guide

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Rebecca Seipp
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MSIS, Information Science
The University of Texas at Austin
BA, History
Southwestern University