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Often one of the most challenging parts of writing your research paper is finding appropriate primary sources. The library has a plethora of primary source databases but most are focused on America and Europe. Of course the Internet is, of course, a rich source of primary source materials but as with all Internet searching the onus of vetting sources falls on you. I provide a few recommendations below for using Internet sources.
Using the Library Catalog:
When searching in the Library Catalog do a keyword Boolean search and add the word “sources” to your search. Example:
“Thomas Jefferson” and sources
Other keywords to try:
NOTE: You can also use these techniques in WorldCat
Using Library Databases:
The library subscribes to a number of databases that include primary source materials. At this point, most of the primary resources found in the library's databases are focused on American history. For non-American history, students may want to try searching for their topics on the web.
The library has a subject page with all its databases that contain primary source documents.
Try some of our specialized databases such as the Historical New York Times, Early American Imprints, Early American Newspapers, Pennsylvania Gazette, African American newspapers, Women and Social Movements.
|Database Name||Focus||Content||Time Period|
|America||Includes African-American Newspaper Collection, American and WW I, American County histories, the Civil War Newspapers, Godey's Lady's Book, The Liberator, the PA Gazette (America's first "paper of record"), and other American primary source documents||1700s - early 1900s|
|African American Studies Center||America||Includes articles, ebooks, and primary sources related to the African American experience.||1619- current|
|AP Images||International||Image database, includes complete archive of AP photos. Over 3 million images||1840 - current|
|Digital National Security Archives||America||Declassified US gov't documents relating to US foreign policy. Major collections include Afghanistan, Cuban Missile crisis, El Salvador, Irangate, Phillipines||1945 - current|
|Early English Books Online||United Kingdom||Contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America from 1473-1700||1473-1700|
|Films on Demand||America||Includes archival news footage and films from American history. Examples: Nixon's address on Vietnam, WPA films, old TV commercials, WW II footage.||1919 - present|
|Gale Virtual Reference Library||Mostly American||Speeches, letters, legislation, treaties, journal entries||19th and 20th centuries|
|HarpWeek||America||Popular 19th century news and social magazine||Late 19th and early 20th century|
|KLN Digital Collections||Pennsylvania||Locally digitized collections includes the Kutztown Patriot, Kutztown postcards, Keystone||Mostly late 19th and 20th century|
|ProQuest Historical Newspapers||America||
Search the full text of the following historical newspapers:
|1786 - 2016|
|Readex Digital Archives||America||Includes historical newspaper collection, Early American imprints, and broadsides/ephemera collections||1600s - current|
|Women and Social Mov'ts||America||Includes articles, ebooks, and primary sources related to the experience of women in America.||1600 - 2000|
|Victorian Popular Culture||UK and US||Contains a wide range of source material relating to popular entertainment in America, Britain and Europe.||1779 - 1930|
Using the Web for finding primary sources. The free web is one of the richest sources of primary source material but it requires the user to carefully evaluate what they find.
Review this recommended Web Guide before you start your search: Using Primary Sources on the Web. An excellent web guide by the
Try a Google.com search on your topic. Type in your topic include the words “primary source”
Example: “roman religion” “primary sources”
Also try limiting your results to .edu, .org, OR .gov web sites. For example:
"roman religion" "primary sources" site:edu
Some Recommended Sites
Internet Ancient History Sourcebook
Excellent outline of primary sources arranged by topic however the site is not regularly updated, recommend using as an outline and copy and pasting titles and doing a new search to find source.
WWW Virtual Library: History Index
List of recommended web sites on all aspects of history
HathiTrust Digital Library
Includes thousands of public domain resources