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Western Civilization

Introduction to research in Western Civilization

Finding Primary Sources

Searching for primary sources may require different methods than searching for other sources (such as scholarly journal articles or books). Here are a few tips and tricks for finding primary sources:

  • Limit to specific time periods: Use date ranges (on the Advanced Search page) to focus your search
  • Extend time ranges: Include at least a few weeks after an event when searching for a specific time period, as it may have taken time for news about the event to be formally reported on.
  • Start broad with a narrow time period: Use a narrow time period, but start your search with the broadest topic
    • Example: If your topic is the Massacre at Wounded Knee, search for: "wounded knee" + limit to date range of 12/29/1890-1/12/1891 (the word massacre may not have been used immediately after the event)
  • Use primary source keywords to find primary sources:  Use search terms that reflect the types of primary sources you’re looking for, such as:
    • Diaries
    • Pamphlets
    • Correspondence, Letters
    • Speeches
    • Manuscripts
    • Personal narratives
    • Interviews
    • Firsthand, eyewitness, sources, etc.

Library Databases

Newspaper Sources

Other Resources for Primary Sources

Check out online primary source collections from archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies!