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History Research Guide

What is a primary source?

There's no one thing, but for historians, it's generally something that was created at the time of the event. Try searching using terms like: biography [also use for autobiographies], newspapers, "personal papers" [use for archival material], correspondence [use for letters], personal diaries, photographs, videos, interviews, pamphlets, artwork, sources [a common one!], and many other types of things!

Digital Collections

Historical Newspapers

Latin America Readers (series)

Search CRL

The Center for Research Libraries has a number of microfilmed collections, international newspapers, and official documents from countries outside the U.S. 

Reprinted Primary Sources (Catalyst)

Primary sources can be located in Catalyst a number of ways.  Below are a list of ADVANCED SEARCH strategies to try.  Be creative and flexible when searching for primary sources. 
  • Do an author search for persons, organizations, or group central to your topic.
    • Author/Creator (contains) Bolívar, Simón
    • RESULT: The Bolívarian Revolution (English translations of letters and other selections)


  • Do an advanced search for words that signify primary source (source, letters, narrative, laws) and words that represent your topic
    • Subject (contains) Cuba History sources
    • RESULT: Voices of the enslaved in nineteenth-century Cuba : a documentary history (translation of original into English)
    • PROTIP: just adding History Sources onto the end of a country can often get good results!


  • Do a subject search using a subject term you've discovered while searching. Refine your search to publications produced during the era you are researching.
    • Subject (is exact) Brazil--Commerce, Sort by Date - Oldest 
    • Report of the commissioners from British North America appointed to inquire into the trade of the West Indies, Mexico & Brazil (1866)