Library Research for History 90: The Practice of History
It's not always easy to say what is a primary source; be sure to check with
your professor and discuss just what might be considered primary source
material for the purpose of your research. Generally, primary source
materials are considered to be those things--speeches, articles, diaries,
news reports--produced at the time of the
events you are investigating. The material produced after the fact to explain
or explore an event is generally referred to as secondary source material.
Your sources must be fully documented in any written work you
produce. It may help to look at the information on style
before you start your research, so that you will have all the required
documentation at hand when you need it. Then as you write, go back to the
resources on style for details on the exact format
of your citations.
As always, if you have any questions be sure to
ask a Reference Librarian.
Searching for Primary Source Material: Books in LUCIA
After performing a search by author, title, or subject in
the Telnet version of LUCIA, you can
limit your results by date published. At the first screen of search results,
type LIM and you will be given a number of options for limits. When you are
presented with the choice of limiting by date, you can enter a specific year,
for example, 1945 or you can limit by decade by typing 194.
Keyword searching provides you with additional options for finding primary
materials. You can search for any keyword, and add the label PU and a
date. Try these examples and see what you find:
FI ATOMIC AND PU 1945 (finds items published in a specific year)
Another way to locate primary source materials is to run a keyword search and
include any of the following terms with the label SU. Try the
FI ATOMIC AND PU 194# (finds items published within a decade)
FI ATOMIC AND (PU 194# OR PU C194#) (finds even more items)
To locate even more, try a keyword search for any of the terms above and add
SU BIBLIOGRAPHY to your search, for example, SU SOURCES AND SU
BIBLIOGRAPHY. This will help you find book-length bibliographies listing
primary sources in and beyond our collections.
Searching for Primary Source Material: Articles
Essay and General Literature Index. 1900 - present.
- Indexes essays and articles in collections, anthologies, etc.
- International Index. 1907-1965.
- Indexes articles from scholarly journals. Title changed to Social
Sciences and Humanities Index.
Public Affairs Information Service
- Indexes articles, books, conference
proceedings, government documents, book chapters, and statistical directories
about public affairs and international relations.
Reference Indexes from 1915-1976
Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. 1900-1984.
- Indexes articles from popular magazines.
Social Sciences and Humanities Index. 1966-1974.
- The later title of the International Index. Lives on today as
the separate titles Humanities Index and Social Sciences Index.
New York Times. 1851-current.
- Considered to be the American paper of record. The New York Times
is on microfilm near the Reference offices.
New York Times Index--Reference/Microform Area
Times (London, England). 1941-current.
- The leading British paper. The Times itself is held
on microfilm near the Reference offices.
Times index--Reference Indexes
Primary Source Databases
- American Civil War: Letters & Diaries
- Contains 460 authors and approximately 32,000 pages of letters, diaries and memoirs. Searchable by names of people, places, battle, day, and more.
- Early English Books Online
- Texts relevant to English literature, classical literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, political science, history of science, and the fine arts dating from 1475 to 1700.
- Perseus Digital Library
- "Perseus is an evolving digital library, engineering interactions through time, space, and language." Originally focused on the classical world, Perseus now includes texts relevant to the history of other places and eras.
- North American Women's Letters & Diaries
- "Includes the immediate experiences of 442 women, as revealed in approximately 50,000 pages of diaries and letters" dating from the Colonial era to 1950. Searchable by authors, sources, years, personal events, and historical events.
- Women Writer's Project
- Full text collection of writing by women covering a period from 1400 to 1850.
Primary Material from Other Sources
Government Documents are excellent sources for primary source material.
See the information listed on the web page for
Library Research for History 90: Secondary Sources and go to the section on
Government Documents; you
should look specifically at the Monthly Catalog of United States Government
The History 90: Secondary Sources guide section on
Research Guides can also direct
you to primary sources.
More primary documents may be available on the Web.
Remember to try keyword searches in LUCIA for terms like SU SOURCES AND
SU BIBLIOGRAPHY. You will find items like the following titles:
American Diaries : An Annotated Bibliography of Published
American Diaries and Journals. 2 vols.
- Ref. Z5305.U5 A74 1983
- Guide to the Manuscripts of the Wisconsin Historical
- Ref. Z6621 .W77
Ref. Z6621 .W77 Suppl. (2 vols.)
Researchers in American history should be aware of the Evans Collection of
Early American Imprints. It contains over 36,000 items published in American
between 1639 and 1830, reproduced on microcard. The Evans Collection is
cataloged in LUCIA and is shelved near the reference office. See the guide to
Evans Collection of Early American Imprints for more details.
AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History
- A substantial list from the University of Kansas.
- Sources from the Library of Congress.
- American Treasures of the Library of Congress
- A list with links to some of the major documents held in the collections of the Library of Congress. Sorted by major periods.
The Avalon Project
- Documents in law, history, and government from the Yale Law School.
- Doing History: Directories Listing Sites for Professional Historians and Doing History: Sites for Popular History
- Selected and presented by the History Department at Lawrence.
- The Exhibit Hall from the
National Archives and Records Administration
- Features documents and images.
- Historic Government Publications from World War II
- A collection of PDF
documents from Southern Methodist University featuring just over 200 government documents from World War II.
- United States government publications from the University of Louisville's Ekstrom Library.
- Internet Resources for History
- From the librarians of the Seeley G. Mudd Library. This list includes some of the specific sites mentioned here and more.
- The Labyrinth
- Resources for Medieval studies, sponsored by Georgetown University.
Making of America
- A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Cornell
- U.S. History: Primary and Secondary Sources.
- An article for the November 2001 issue of College and Research Libraries News by Paul A. Frisch. Includes materials related to many aspects of American history, including the Civil War, the New Deal, the Cold War, African-American history, women's history, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* history.
Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War
- From the
Virginia Center for Digital History
- World Wide Web Virtual Library
- Organized into four broad categories (Eras and Epochs, Countries and Regions, Historical Subtopics, and Other Useful Information).
- Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years
- From the Library of Congress. Includes a chronological list of documents.
Of course, there are many more web resources available that might be useful in
your research. Be sure to look at the Internet Resources section of the History 90: Secondary Sources guide.
- Digital Librarian
- "A librarian's choice of the best of the Web."
- INFOMINE for History
- From the University of California. You may want to look at the general INFOMINE categories or the
resources for Social Sciences & Humanities.
- Librarians' Index to the Internet
- From the California State Libraries.
- The Scout Report Archives
- Sources selected and organized by the Internet Scout Project. The Project, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is funded by the National Science Foundation. Its mission is to assist in the advancement of resource discovery on the Internet.
Of course, there are many more web resources available that might be useful in your research. For brief background information on how to use some of the many available Internet search engines, see the guide to Selected Search Tools for WWW.
Primary sources on the web may be transcripts or reproductions of original documents. It's as important to evaluate primary sources on the web as secondary ones. You should be sure the documents you find have been made available by a reputable source. There should be some statement about the source of the original document, a description of the process used post it, and the name or names of the person, institution, or organization responsible for making the document available. You may want to consult this guide to
Evaluating Internet Resources from the Lawrence library, this guide to Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources from UCLA, or this bibliography on Evaluation of Information Sources.
Be aware that you may have to include at least two different types of citations
for primary materials: citations to original documents (if you use them) and
citations to reprints of original documents. Reprints might include anything
that appears as a transcript or a facsimile.
- Academic Citation and Writing
- Style manuals of the humanities, physical sciences, and the social sciences in the Seeley G. Mudd Library.
The Chicago Manual of Style.
- A standard source for bibliographic format.
Ref. Z253 .U69 1993
Citing Electronic Documents
- This page provides guidance on citing electronic documents and links to
other guides, some on specific styles of documentation.
Definitions of terms and abbreviations:
Ref. = Reference collection, first floor
RRef.= Ready reference, shelves behind the reference desk
Periodicals = Current issues; Periodicals Level A
Periodical Back Files = Titles A - C on Periodicals Level A, C - Z on second floor
GovDoc = U.S. Government Documents, second floor
Reference Indexes = Alphabetically arranged at the end of the reference collection
Microform Area = Reading room east of the reference desk, near microform drawers
q. = Oversized books: interfiled in reference; at end of classes in other collections
And as always, if you need help, ask a Reference Librarian.
Gretchen Revie, Reference Librarian