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Primary Sources

Finding Primary Sources in OneSearch

Primary source documents are frequently collected in published books. There are two ways to use OneSearch to find these collections.

Before You Begin Your Search

Brainstorm keywords and phrases about your topic. If you were researching women's suffrage in America, for example, good keywords and phrases might be suffrage, women, feminis*, "nineteenth amendment", vote* or activis*. Use double quotes when searching a phrase-when you need to find the words side-by-side. Use an asterisk * to find variations of the same word. For example, typing activis* finds activists and activism.

1. Find Primary Sources with Subject Headings

Use the Advanced Search form and pair your keywords with some of these common words found in subject headings for primary sources. See OneSearch screenshot below for an example. 

  • autobiographies
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • documents
  • facsimiles
  • history-sources
  • interviews
  • letters
  • manuscripts
  • notebooks
  • personal narratives
  • pamphlets
  • papers
  • pictorial works
  • portraits
  • posters
  • speeches
  • writings

Sample search in OneSearch.

suffrage or activist* or vot* or "nineteenth amendment" and correspondence or diaries

2. Find Primary Sources with Filters

Perform a simple search (e.g., women's suffrage) and then select relevant Publication Date and/or Resource Type filters in the left navigation pane. See the filters in action here. Primary sources include books published at the time of a historical event. Some primary resource types include:

  • archival materials
  • images
  • datasets
  • manuscripts
  • maps, created at the time of the event
  • newspaper articles, written at the time of the event
  • videos, recorded at the time of the event