Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources for Historical Research

Descriptions and links to digitized primary sources, as well as print collections of newspapers, diaries, correspondence and other primary sources

Advanced Searching

Click below for the full catalog with lots of options and features.

Some tips for better results:

  • Use the drop-down menu to allow for results that "match any one word" that you search for. You could enter "Spain Britain" [without the quotes] with this option to get results that mention either Spain or Britain.
  • Truncate a word with a ? to get variations of that word. You can enter "colon?" [without the quotes] to get mentions of either "colonial" or "colonies" or "colony."
  • Use subject terms for more precise results. Choose "Subject" from the right-hand "Search by" drop-down menu to search in the subject heading field. Some subject headings that will be helpful here include "Colonies" and "Colonial Period" [without the quotes].
  • Distinguish between searching for an exact phrase vs just for all given terms. By default, the drop-down menu in the middle is set at "match all words." Searching that way for "New Spain" [without quotes] will find books about Spain that were published in New York. Changing that drop-down to "match exact phrase" will find only find mentions of the Spanish empire holdings governed from Mexico City from 1535 to 1821.

Limiting Results to Primary Sources

The other pages in this guide offer a few suggestions and possibilities for primary source research but are only the beginning.

To discover primary sources generally, try these approaches:

  • Scour the bibliographies and notes of relevant secondary sources such as articles, books, and dissertations on your topic. They are necessarily drawing on relevant primary sources. We may or may not have access then to those primary sources.
  • Search in our catalog or in WorldCat and include these subject terms: Personal narratives, Facsimiles, Diaries, Correspondence, Sources. Alternately, try including document? [in our catalog] or document* [in WorldCat] as a key word for mentions of "documents" or "documentary" in the title or description.
  • Do you know of specific people involved in the events your studying who may have written works?
    Try searching in our catalog or in WorldCat for such a person's name in the Author field.



Discover and request books from elsewhere with WorldCat.

In WorldCat, match any word by connecting them with OR, e.g. Spain OR Britain, match exact phrases with quotation marks, e.g. "New Spain", and truncate search terms with an * instead of a ?. For instance, colon* for Colonies or Colonial.