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AMST 301B/HIST 366B: American Cultural Traditions

Course guide for AMST301/HIST366B

About searching for primary sources

Locating primary sources for historical research is an iterative process. It often involves consulting the secondary sources, tracking down primary sources used by others, going back to the literature as new names, events, and concepts emerge, then back to the tracking down potential primary documents. 

For historians, some of the most fruitful searching happens in OneSearch, which includes the library catalog. To limit results to Stetson, select Stetson, not Libraries Worldwide. Many primary sources will be in books, so be sure to select Books before searching or limit to books in the results list. When searching, keep the following in mind.

Search for authors - Individuals, organizations, and government branches/agencies can all be authors, and can be searched in library catalogs. Results might include autobiographies, published correspondence and diaries, interviews, government reports, hearings, and studies, periodicals and bulletins, and archival collections.

Know your subject headings - It helps to get to know how subject headings are used to describe your topic. For example, the subject headings Cuban Americans and Cubans--United States have slightly different meanings, and both could be useful for studying Americans of Cuban origin or Cubans in the United States, respectively.

Add the following keywords to your main search (e.g. "French Revolution"  "First World War"  "Holocaust") to find primary sources on your topic.

  • Sources
  • Autobiography
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Biography
  • Interviews
  • Memoir
  • Speeches

List of Primary Source Databases

Below is a list of databases containing primary source material on topics related to Modern Western Civilization.

Have a question? Ask a librarian! Email Call or text 386-747-9028.