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Hope Library Guides

HIST 314 Modern Japan and Korea: Primary Sources

Finding Primary Sources

Finding primary sources is sometimes very easy, and sometimes not so easy!  Read through the sections below to help you get ideas and understand research strategies that will help you locate primary sources in a variety of ways! (through Hope PRIMO, through searching on the internet, by looking through digital collections, and by looking through certain databases).

Primary vs Secondary

Is this Primary?! Is this Secondary?!

Look through these two tutorials to help you figure it out!


Primary Source keyword/type examples

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:

  • sources;
  • personal narratives;
  • diaries;
  • correspondence;
  • interviews;
  • church records and registers;
  • sermons;
  • early works;
  • wills;
  • photographs.

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.

Searching using primary source types/genres

Another option is to search for your topic, then look at the refining options via "Genre," and then look for some primary source term, as mentioned above.


On the Web

There are many fantastic digitization projects that are going on right now that make primary source materials much more easily accessible to you.  Here are a couple of tips for looking for these as well as some portals to get you started on your research.

  • 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", "digitized", 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.

Potentially Useful Primary Source Collections