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Hope Library Guides

HIST 140 - Petit - Debating American Identity: Primary Sources

This is a guide for Professor Jeanne Petit's research methods class.

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

Use these terms as keywords in your search to help you find primary sources related to your subject.  Try to think about in what format/genre the information might have been recorded in.

  • correspondence
  • pamphlets
  • sources
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • speeches
  • interviews
  • oral history / oral histories / oral narratives
  • documents
  • archives
  • microfilm


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.



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.


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.

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.


Sample web searches for Primary sources:

Chinese exclusion act primary sources

gilded age digital archive