One way to find a primary source is to read through the bibliography of a secondary source. This is because a secondary source, if it offers an in-depth treatment of your topic, will mention speeches, emails, newspaper articles, court cases, first-hand accounts, treaties, etc. – some of which are primary sources. Once you find a primary source listed in the bibliography, your librarian can help you locate it on the shelf or online.
In Search Everything, type your topic plus a word such as memoir, speech, narrative, diary, manuscripts, etc. You will see books, articles, films, government documents, and more in your search results.
In the library catalog try multiple searches, using different search words each time. Try search words that are broader and narrower than the actual topic. For example, you could use a specialized encyclopedia such as The Encyclopedia of Religion to find the text of a creation myth, or Milestone Documents in World History to find excerpts from the Code of Hammurabi. You could also try a subject search in the catalog for the word "sources" plus your topic. For example:
- subject search for: women and sources
- subject search for: history "united states" sources
- subject search for: war sources
In Library Databases
Use the database’s built-in subject guide to find the most successful search words, or brainstorm search words with a librarian.
Experiment with advanced searching, in particular the “limit by document types” feature.
Use the asterisk (*) after the root word to broaden your search. For example, type mother* to locate information on mothers, mothering, motherhood, etc.
Use quotation marks (" ") to search for exact phrases, such as "John Locke" or "rise to power."
The Films on Demand Master Academic Collection streaming video database lets you limit your results to primary sources. Select Type of Content "Newsreel or Primary Source" in Advanced Search or filter your search results by Video Type "Newsreel or Primary Source."
Google / Google Scholar / Google Books: search for the topic plus the words “primary source.” Or search for the topic plus a word that indicates a primary source, such as diary, interview, correspondence, etc.