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ZSR Library

HST 390: Nature, Science, and Power in Early Modern Europe

Fall 2022 - Dr. O'Connell

Tips for Locating Primary Sources

Choose historically appropriate keywords. For example, use "Great War" instead of "World War I" to locate documents discussing the war during and just after it occurred. You may also consider different terms that might have been used to describe the same event from opposing sides or perspectives. Searching for the names of particular people or places may also be effective. 

Think about what types of primary sources might have been produced that would be relevant to your topic; think also about which persons or organizations might have produced materials. Some possible types of sources:

Books  Photographs and images
Magazine and newspaper articles Cartoons and advertisements 
Diaries and journals  Movies, videos, and DVDs
Memoirs and autobiographies Audio recordings
Interviews Public opinion polls
Letters  Fiction
Speeches  Research data and statistics
Documents produced by organizations Documents produced by government agencies,
including congressional hearings and census records 

To locate potential primary sources in the library's online catalog, Primo, look for subject headings that contain terms such as diaries, letters, correspondence, autobiography, interviews, or personal narratives following the main heading. 

What is a primary source?

In historical research, a primary source can be any source of information created at the time of a historical event or by a direct participant in or observer of an event.

Primary sources can include memoirs,diaries, correspondence, interviews, photographs, newspaper or magazine articles, film footage, news broadcasts, official documents, speeches, maps, artifacts, and works of fiction or drama.

What constitutes a primary source depends entirely on the subject of research. For example, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage would be a secondary source in a study of John Quincy Adams or Sam Houston, but it could serve as a primary source if the topic of study were Kennedy himself.

Find Primary Sources

ONLINE PRIMARY SOURCE COLLECTIONS

The resources listed below are just a few of the online primary source resources available through ZSR Library and on the web. Schedule a personal research session with a librarian for more help! 

COLLECTIONS AVAILABLE THROUGH ZSR

OPENLY AVAILABLE COLLECTIONS

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