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Using the Library Catalog to Find Primary Sources
To find book primary sources, use library catalogs like Barton and WorldCat.
- Do subject searches for topic + genre:
- Subheadings such as "correspondence," "sources," "personal narratives," "pictorial works," "biography," and "speeches" can point to primary sources.
- Pair these subheadings with keywords or topical subject headings in Barton to identify relevant sources in the MIT Libraries.
- See this table for other possible subheadings.
- For example, do this advanced search to get first-hand accounts by Russians or from Russia:
- Keyword = Russia* [This will search for "Russia," "Russian," "Russians"]
- Subject words = "Personal narratives"
- Do advanced searches in Barton for relevant subjects and keywords with publication date limits.
- For example, do this advanced search to find books about the Russian Revolution and Civil War that were published at that time:
- Subject keywords = "Soviet Union History Revolution, 1917-1921" [you can figure out that subject phrase for the Russian Revolution by first doing a keyword search]
- Year from = 1917
- Year to = 1921
Digital Primary Sources at MIT
Competing Voices from the Russian Revolution
Presents documents that cover public discussion about key events and issues during the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Digital National Security Archive (1945-present)
A collection of primary documents central to US foreign and military policy since 1945. More than 35,000 declassified documents - totalling more than 200,000 pages - have been gathered through use of the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Full-text archive of historical legal and governmental information, including world constitutions, treaties, Congressional Record, Presidential papers, and Foreign Relations of the United States.
A full-text scholarly journal archive, back to vol. 1, issue 1, in many fields.
The Nation Archive
Backfile of The Nation magazine back to volume 1, issue 1. Updated monthly 1865 - present.
National Geographic Archive, 1884-present
Every issue of the magazine in full color, browsable and searchable.
New Yorker Archive
Complete archive of The New Yorker, including full page images. V.1 (1925) - present.
Thousands of newspapers, available in full-page facsimile, with searchable full text. Most are U.S. titles, with some international coverage, and most are fairly small-circulation newspapers. 1759-present.
Polling The Nations
Database of questions from public opinion polls around the world. Search question text and get poll results. 1986 - present.
Please click on 'logout' when finished to release access to another user, as only one user is allowed access at a time.
Indexing and abstracts for U.S. congressional publications. Full text of reports, bills, public laws, & legislative histories and links to selected full-text documents, committee prints, & hearings testimony. Indexing: from 1789. Full text: from mid-1980s
Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature
Includes indexing, abstracting and some links to full text for many general interest magazines, in both Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890 - 1982) and Readers' Guide Abstracts (1983 to present).
Women and Social Movements International
Contains the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made. 1840 - present.
Free Primary Sources on the Internet
Primary Sources at Nearby Libraries
Harvard Libraries E-Resources
Harvard has a trove of online databases of primary source material, including historical newspapers, government documents, letters and diaries, and much more. With your Harvard Special Borrower card
, you can visit Harvard libraries and use these databases on the premises (sorry, you can't use them remotely). Take a look at the list of history databases for anything promising for your primary source research!
Widener Collection of Newspapers on Microfilm
A database of the newspapers on microfilm at Harvard's Widener Library, searchable by geography and date span. The newspaper microfilm are accessible with a Harvard Special Borrowers Card.
Smithsonian Global Sound
Musical recordings in a diverse range of styles from around the world. Search or browse by country of origin, cultural group, instrument, artist, language and more.
Available online through the BPL. You'll need your BPL card, or else sign up for a free e-card.
Tip: Follow the Footnotes!
It's not cheating to check the footnotes and bibliographies in your secondary and reference sources (books, journal articles, and encyclopedias) to identify primary sources for your own work. Following footnotes is an approach used by many scholars to identify not only relevant seconary literature, but also primary source bases.