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History (World) Research Guide: Primary Sources

Guide to essential resources in World History research

Finding Items in Other Libraries

ArchiveGrid connects you with primary source material held in archives, special collections, and manuscript collections around the world.  It helps researchers contact archives to request information, arrange a visit, or order copies.

Finding Items using Google's Advanced Search

Google's Advanced Search page allows researchers to input more specific search criteria than traditional Google searching. 

Access the advanced search option from a Google search results page by clicking on the settings icon and scrolling down to "advanced search."

Image of Google settings icon

On the advanced search page, type your keywords into the field labeled "Find pages with all these words."

In the field labeled "Find pages with any of these words," type the following phrases, including quotation marks: "primary sources" "digital library" "digital archives" "digital collection" "online library" "online archive" "online collection". 

This search will typically limit your search results to websites containing digital primary sources. 

For a more detailed explanation, watch the video below. 

Using the Library Catalog to Find Primary Sources in the Collection

When using a library catalog to search for primary sources, you may have to wade through many pages of secondary source material to find primary documents for your project. Here are some tips to help you locate these documents quickly.

Search By Author

When searching for primary documents on a person, try using the person's name as an Author search (LastName, FirstName). When correspondence is cataloged, the writer of the letter (your topic) is generally listed as the author of the collection. (Example: Warren, Robert Penn). This same strategy works for organizations, too.

Important Keywords

Manuscript collections or archives of organizational records often include some of the following keywords in their titles or content descriptions. By including these words as keywords in a search, you have a better chance of finding collections of historical documents:

collection | papers |  archives | diaries | letters | account | narrative | personal | correspondence | autobiography

Note: Use truncation to pick up both the singular and plural form of these keywords.

Limiting Your Search

You may be able to limit your search to Archival material by using Advanced Search. Look for a field labeled "material type"  and try selecting one of the following terms:

ARCHIVAL MATL  or  MANUSCRIPT

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Research Appointment

Are your searches not yielding the results you expected? Are you having trouble finding the information you need? You may schedule a private consultation with a librarian to obtain assistance with developing strategies for your research.

Watch Veteran Interviews

Forrest Gore

Clip from video interview with World War II Veteran Forrest Gore. (Download Video)

Veterans Oral History Project
Download this item and watch many other video interviews in the APSU Veterans' Oral History Project.