Finding Primary Sources for History Research
How to Find Primary Sources
If you have already found good scholarly secondary sources (journal articles or books) on your topic, one of the fastest ways to locate relevant primary sources is to check the footnotes, bibliography and other information in the secondary source. History scholars should always list the primary sources they used to interpret/analyze a historical event or person.
Once you have identified a primary source you are interested in, search PolyCAT to see if it is in our library. If not, check LINK+ (if it's published as a book) to see if you can order it through the LINK+ borrowing system. If the item is not available via LINK+ or is something other than a published book, use Interlibrary Services to obtain the material.
- If you still need additional primary sources for your research, below are suggestions on where to get started in your search; the usefulness of each item depends on the topic and the time period of the event/person/phenomenon that you are researching.
To Find Magazine Articles, 1800 to 1980
- Poole's Index to Periodical Literature
- (1802-1902, in Reference Room, call # AP2 .P78 1938 (Per AI)) would be useful for finding out what magazine articles were written from 1802-1902.
- 19th Century Readers' Guide
- (1890-1900, in Reference Room, call # AI3 .R47 (Per AI)) would be useful for finding out what magazine articles were written from 1890-1900.
- Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature
- (1900-present, in Reference Room, call # AI3 .R472 (Per AI)) would be useful for finding out what magazine articles were written from 1900 to the present.
Once you have the information (citation) about the magazine article you are interested in, search PolyCAT (conduct a journal title search) to see if the magazine is in our Library. If not, use Interlibrary Services to order the articles you need.
To Find Newspaper Articles, 1850's — 1980's
- ProQuest Historical Newspapers
- Provides full-text articles and images from the New York Times, 1851-2003, and the Los Angeles Times, 1881-1985. To access the text from more recent issues of these newspapers, search the ProQuest Newsstand database.
- San Francisco Chronicle
- (1865 — present) Copies of the SFC from 1865 are available on microfilm in the Reference Room area of the library. Unfortunately there is no index until 1976, so you may have to browse relevant issues/dates for primary source articles on your topic. To find more recent SFC articles (mid-1980's to the present) as primary sources, search California Newspapers (Newsband) for online access.
To Find Magazine Articles, 1980 to the Present
- Academic Search Elite
- Provides the full text of news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, as well as other publications that comment on events and people from varying viewpoints. Coverage begins from 1985 for some publications.
- Expanded Academic ASAP
- Provides the full text of news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, as well as other publications that comment on events and people from varying viewpoints. Coverage begins from 1980 for some publications.
To Find Newspaper Articles, 1980 to the Present
- Lexis Nexis
- Provides full-text articles from U.S. and international newspapers as well as full-text transcripts from radio and television news media. Coverage begins in 1980 for some publications.
- California Newspapers
- Provides full text articles from over 30 major and regional California newspapers. Coverage begins in 1985 for some publications.
- Ethnic NewsWatch
- Provides full-text of newspapers, magazines, and journals from the ethnic, minority, and native press, published from 1990 to present.
- Proquest Newsstand
- Full text of over 300 U.S. and international news sources, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and the Times of London.
To Find Published Diaries, Letters and Other Primary Sources in Book Format
- civil war and soldiers and diaries
- thomas jefferson and correspondence
- vietnamese conflict and personal narratives
- september 11 terrorist attacks and interviews