Primary Source Round-up: Something for Everyone

By - Research & Instruction Librarian May 8th, 2009

Lura Sanborn – Reference Librarian

Gathering primary sources for your Fifth Form paper?  Ohrstrom Library offers the following sources and suggestions:

Online Databases:
These databases, available through the Library’s website, are those most commonly used by Fifth Formers looking for primary source periodical material.

  • London Times – Provides the full-text of this newspaper from 1785-1985.
  • Historical Newspaper Collection – Provides the full-text of 6 major U.S. newspapers from 1851 through the early 2000s.
  • JSTOR – features a collection of 750+ journals, most dating from at least the 1800s forward.  (Note, be sure to watch the date.  A recent article on your topic represents current research, not a likely primary source.)

Books – More Primary Source Potential:
You can locate primary sources published in book form by using the following terms as subject searches in the Library’s Online Catalog.  Or, conduct a keyword search using one term below combined with your topic (i.e. Correspondence, Darwin; or Sources, Inquisition).

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Personal narratives
  • Speeches
  • Sources

Frequently, primary sources are embedded within books considered secondary sources.  For example, a book about the Cold War may contain the text of a relevant speech, letter and/or legal document.

Venturing Online – Visit the Library @ Delicious:
The Library has begun collecting high quality websites in its own Delicious account.  Click on the “Primary Sources” tag to generate a list of websites housing exceptional collections of primary sources.  Top picks are also listed in the Fifth Form paper research guide.

Google Advanced Search Techniques:
As a final online tip, try searching your subject in Google, but first, limit the domain to .edu and add the word archives to your search string.  If a University or College library has digitized a special collection in your area of research, this search could help you find it.

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