Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Primary Source keyword/type examples
Use these terms as keywords, alongside keywords or subject headings related to your topic, to search for primary sources related to your topic. Try to think about in what format the information might have been recorded in during that Historical Time Period.
Example: personal narratives AND "south africa" (see image below for other example)
- personal narratives
- oral history / oral histories / oral narratives
Primary Sources in PRIMO
Primary sources include a variety of materials written or created during the time period of the topic you are researching.
Primary Sources Online: Finding, Evaluating, and Using from the American Library Association
Library collections include primary sources in a variety of formats. Most of those in the Hope College Libraries are in book form. In some cases, the content of the book has been transferred to microfiche or a special type of microfiche known as ultrafiche.
One method for finding books that may be considered primary sources is to search PRIMO using keywords that describe your topic in combination with the following terms:
- personal narratives;
- church records and registers;
- early works;
Remember that you may need to think about your topic broadly to find primary sources using this method. After actually looking at the source you will know whether or not it effectively addresses your specific topic.
For additional assistance locating and using primary source materials, please consult the Van Wylen Library Reference Desk.
Searching for Primary Sources on the Web
There are many primary source collections freely available online.
Try searching on national library websites of countries you are researching, or do a very broad search on your topic in combination with words/phrases like "digital archive" or "primary sources" or "digitized" or "digital collection."
jane addams digital collection
france national library digitized
- If your topic is geographically specific, do some browsing on the state library websites for in your area to see if they have any digitization projects from their collection.
- If you discover that a particular library is strong in your subject area, check their website as well.
- Browse the subject guides of major research libraries, they will often include helpful weblinks in subject specific guides.
- When searching on the internet, try including words like "digital collection" or "primary sources" along with your more general subject
- If you are looking for a specific older published source, type in its specific title; it might come up in a digital collection or Google Books.
Hope Electronic Collections
At Hope Libraries, we subscribe to several full text databases of published primary sources. They are searchable by keyword, so you can do very precise searches on your topic in newspapers, magazines and journals. Because these databases are so large t is helpful to narrow by date range to the time period in which you are interested.
Harper's Weekly (HarpWeek) This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Provides illustrations, photographs, maps, and issues of Harper's Weekly publications, a prominent American 19th century newspaper.
JSTOR This link opens in a new window
Content/Description:Includes articles, books, reviews and other sources. "Data for Research" provides interactive content. "Workspace" saves and shares sources. "Text Analyzer" searches for sources with user documents. "Understanding Series" provides sources quoting selected text.
Readers' Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 (H.W. Wilson) [EBSCOhost] This link opens in a new window
Subject: History, Journalism, Interdisciplinary
Content/Description:Articles with full-text links and video from publications spanning a wide range of topics and dates.
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 (scholar's edition) This link opens in a new window
Subject: History, Political Science, Women and Gender Studies
Content/Description: Contains full-text primary documents, archive notes, books, film and website reviews, and teaching tools with archives.
Early English Books Online (EEBO) This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Contains digitized images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700.
Nineteenth Century Collections Online I-IV This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Includes full-text documents and maps in collections I-IV: Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange; British Politics and Society; British Theatre, Music, and Literature: High and Popular Culture; European Literature, 1790-1840.
Slavery & Abolition, 1789-1887 This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Access to historical journals that chronicle the African-American experience during the 19th century. Subjects include religion, literature, slavery, and abolition.
American Antiquarian Society(AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 1-5 (1693-1912) This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: A collection of primary sources from American magazines and journals on history and culture from 1693 to 1912. Its magazine and journal articles and digitized images cover advertising, health, social and religious issues, science, and slavery.
General Interest Christian Periodicals, 1743-1889 This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Provides periodicals of sermons from various groups that address broad religious themes and at the time appealed to a general readership.
Gale Primary Sources This link opens in a new window
Content/Description: Provides a series of primary sources including diary entries, books, and newspaper articles from a series of databases.
CRL Digital Delivery System
Digitized collections of materials including international newspapers, primary sources, government documents, manuscripts, dissertations and more.
Google News Archive Search
Search engine for historical newspapers from Google's News Archive Partner Program and other online archival collections. Note: not all material will be freely available.
General Primary Source Collections
Digital Public Library of America
Growing searchable portal to digital archival content around the country. Check primary source sets!
HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and highly functional access platform. It provides long-term preservation and access services for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives.
The partners ensure the reliability and efficiency of the digital library by relying on community standards and best practices, developing policies and procedures to manage content and services at scale, and maintaining a modular, open infrastructure.
Harvard Digital Collections
Harvard Digital Collections provides free, public access to over 6 million objects digitized from our collections - from ancient art to modern manuscripts and audio visual materials.
Harvard Curated Digital Collections
Curated views that provide specialized search options and unique content
Internet Sourcebook for Modern History
A Collection of Sources curated by the History Department of Fordham University.
Welsh Newspaper Archives
Collection of digitized Welsh Newspapers.
European History Primary Sources
Massive repository relating to primary sources in Europe.
German History Documents
German History in Documents and Images (GHDI) is a comprehensive collection of primary source materials documenting Germany's political, social, and cultural history from 1500 to the present.
Medical Heritage Library
The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, promotes free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine. Our goal is to provide the means by which readers and scholars across a multitude of disciplines can examine the interrelated nature of medicine and society, both to inform contemporary medicine and strengthen understanding of the world in which we live. The MHL’s growing collection of digitized medical rare books, pamphlets, journals, and films number in the tens of thousands, with representative works from each of the past six centuries, all of which are available here through the Internet Archive.
Disability History Museum
The Disability History Museum hosts a Library of virtual artifacts, Education curricula, and Museum exhibits. These programs are designed to foster research and study about the historical experiences of people with disabilities and their communities.
Hope College is now affilliated with the Center for Research Libraries. This gives us access to a great number of important historical resources, in print, microfilm and online. These can be ordered through ILL. Start looking for materials in their online catalog. Also, you can browse for newspapers by country and by city.