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Primary Sources Guide: Primary Sources in the Databases


On this page, you will find subscription databases containing primary sources, and some tips on how to search for primary sources. In the box below, toggle through the tabs to find databases for American History, World Histories, and Biographical Information & Maps. 

Then, in the box on the right, review some search strategies for finding primary sources.

Library Databases

Finding Primary Sources in the Databases

Not all databases contain primary sources for every topic. But when they do, they will give you the opportunity to limit or filter your results by "Primary Sources". In the example below, I used Modern World History to search for resources on women and World War II.

My search results automatically default to "Articles", but I have the option to select "Primary Sources". See below.

My Primary Source results include up to 450 items. You have the option on the right-hand side of the Primary Source results, to limit your results by the type of material you would like to see. 

You may also choose to browse Primary Sources directly. In Infobase databases, such as Modern World History, you can select to browse Primary Sources directly from the home page. 

In the Browse option for Primary Sources, you have the option to search across regions and eras, using the options on the right-hands side of your screen. If you do not find what you are looking for through browsing, you may use the search bar to search again for your topic. 

Many historical databases have topic pages, which can lead you to some primary sources. Returning to Modern World History, you can access the topic overviews from the homepage.

The topics page in Modern World History gives you the option to choose your topic alphabetically, and you also may narrow the available topics by region or era

In the Topics Page, you have the option, again, to choose "Primary Sources". You will then receive a results list with all of the relevant Primary Sources for this topic. You have the option to filter by document type on the right-hand side. 

Photographs, maps and other visual materials may be considered primary sources. In Modern World History, just as you have the option to limit or filter your search results by "Primary Sources", you also have the option to limit or filter your search results by "Images". You have the option to limit your search results by maps or photographs on the right-hand side.

The same goes for videos as well. After selecting to limit by "Videos", you may also limit you search results again to only include Newsreel or Primary Source video, on the right-hand side.