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How to Locate Primary and Secondary Sources in History

:: Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources

* For more  information about primary and secondary sources, see the American Memory Project  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/lessons/psources/source.html


:: Strategies for Finding Primary and Secondary Sources

Below are some strategies for identifying primary and secondary sources in the APSU Library, using the Library's full-text databases, Austin, and the Reference Collection.

Full-text Databases

Use some of the Library's full-text history databases that contain letters, diaries and other primary source materials.  These databases are listed under Resources for Research on the U.S. History subject page at http://library.apsu.edu/inform/22HistUS.htm.  

For example, the North American Women's Letters and Diaries database allows you to pinpoint letters written by women who lived through various historical events.  Here you can find letters written by Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams, during the American Revolution. 

Use other databases such as America: History and Life to identify secondary sources about historical events, places, and people.  The secondary sources may be journal articles, books, and other documents.

Austin The Library Catalog

Use Austin to identify print and electronic materials, which may be either primary or secondary sources.  

For primary sources, search Austin by AUTHOR (Last name, First name).  
This works for people who have written autobiographies, diaries or journals, and letters.  Examples: Washington, George <or> Douglass, Frederick <or> Roosevelt, Eleanor

For primary sources, search Austin by SUBJECT KEYWORD, using a heading that is descriptive of primary sources with the historical event, person, or place being researched.  

Descriptive headings include words or phrases such as:  sources, personal narratives, autobiographies, diaries, letters, and journals. 
Note: Use truncation to pick up both the singular and plural form of the heading.

Examples: United States Revolution personal narrative* <or> 
United States Civil War source* <or> Charlotte L. Forten Grimké journal*

For secondary sources, search Austin by SUBJECT KEYWORD.
Examples: United States Civil War <or>
Sojourner Truth

Reference Collection

The Library’s Reference Collection contains books in the Ref. E section which cover United States History.  Annals of America and other books containing reprints of historical documents (e.g., The Declaration of Independence) are located in Ref. E 173. 


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