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Primary Source Research: Introduction - Getting Started

How to do Primary Source Research

Getting Started

Once you have a topic, consult a variety of books and articles. They will provide information on potential sources, useful access points, and context.

  • Start by compiling a list of people, organizations, places, events and dates. These can be used as search terms in catalogs and other research tools. Check out the "Access Tools" tab in this guide for more information.
  • Mine the bibliographies and footnotes for useful information such as collection names and archival repositories. See sample search below.


Example Search

Let's start by using the database, America: History & Life (EBSCO). Our topic is women's activism and the cold war.

Here is a screen shot of our search - "women AND cold war"

The second article sounds interesting. Let's check it out. On page 551, there is a reference to minutes. If we take a look at the note (38) for that section, we can find the source.

So where do we go next? Let's see if we can find The Women's Library using Google.

Our next step is to visit the site to see if we can find the International Alliance of Women Collection.

What else can we find out from this site? The link will take to you to this general description of the collection.

This description is helpful as it describes what you will find in the collection in addition to minutes there are photographs and files relating to other women's organizations. From here you can delve further into the collection and see if it is worth exploring. Depending on the level of detail, it might be possible to request copies of materials without making a trip to London. 

By following the trail of the footnote, we have quickly located a variety of primary sources on our topic.



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