Answered By: Jennifer Harris
Last Updated: Sep 14, 2018     Views: 3066

Shapiro Library does have some primary sources in its collection.  Databases which show an archival box icon Icon of a box with a lid next to it include some archival or primary source documents.  You can find these databases by:

  1. Going to the library home page
  2. Clicking on the A-Z Database List link 
  3. In the center of the page above the alphabet you will see a drop down menu option that says “All Database Types.” 
  4. Select Includes Primary Sources from the list. 
  5. Depending on the type of primary source you need, one or more of these databases may be helpful to you. 

For example, if you click on the Biography in Context database, you may search for primary sources by clicking on the Advanced Search icon (to the right of the search box at the top). Next, uncheck the Peer Reviewed Journals checkbox (which is selected by default) and select Primary Sources from the Content Type section (you may have to scroll down the page to see it). After you enter in your search term at the top and click on the Search button you will see results like letters, photographs, speeches, and other types of primary sources related to the person you searched. 

If you are unable to find any primary sources on your topic using the library’s databases, please consult the library’s History Research Guide.  You will find a Primary Sources link over on the left side of the guide.  Once you click on this link you will see a list of librarian-recommended Websites that have primary sources on various topics.  Please note that there are two separate sections on this page; one for American History and another for World History (further down the page). 

Review the various links and their descriptions to decide which one will be most appropriate for your topic.  Once you have clicked on a link, look for a search box to type in your search terms.  Remember to start simple (just one or two keywords) and then add additional keywords as needed.  You may also want to enclose your keywords in quotation marks to quickly find relevant documents.  The quotation marks ensure that the database or search engine will look for your keyword(s) as a phrase and not as separate words.  Please consult our Getting Started guide for help with creating effective searches.  You may need to try multiple links to find an appropriate primary source for your assignment. 

Outside Resources

If you are unable to find a primary source from any of the links provided in the History Research Guide, please consult this Website: Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using It was published by the Reference and User Services Association (a division of the American Library Association) to provide guidance on how to find, evaluate and use primary sources on the Web. 

For example, under the “Finding Primary Sources” section of this guide, you will see tips on how to search the Web for primary sources.  For example, try a Google search that looks like this: [Your topic] primary sources.  The example provided is: world war I soldiers primary sources

You can also track down specific primary sources (which you may have discovered from reading a secondary source) by entering that title in quotes into the search box.  

Next, click on the Evaluating Link from this guide and read through the Evaluating Primary Sources page to help you assess the quality and reliability of the primary source(s) you have found.  Once you have found and evaluated the primary source, you may also want to consider the Using Primary Sources in Your Writing page of this guide to help you analyze and write about the primary source you have chosen.

If you still are not able to find any primary sources after trying these steps, please contact the Reference Desk and we can help you brainstorm keywords or offer additional suggestions.

Check out this video on Finding Primary Sources or Where Do You Find Primary Sources? for more information.

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