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+ Find Primary Sources for Historical Research: Books

A guide to finding primary source materials.

Finding Primary Source Books

Search CLICsearch to find primary sources in books and ebooks.   When searching the catalog, you will want to use specific subject headings in your searches to single out the primary source materials.  These subject headings are specialized "tag" added to the records to books by catalog librarians to provide accurate descriptions of books.  Using the following subject headings in your search will help you find the source material you seek:

  • correspondence
  • literary collections 
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works 
  • songs and music
  • sources
  • diary or diaries
  • documents
  • interviews


Example:  A researcher needs to find first hand accounts of soldiers experiences during the U.S. Civil War.  The most relevant subject heading for this search is:

United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861 - 1865 -- Personal narratives

It is a long and complicated subject heading to remember. However, a researcher can use the the recommended terms in a keyword search to get similar results.  For example:

"Civil War" and "United States" and "personal narratives"

Find Primary Source Books in Databases

The UST libraries subscribe to various databases which provide online access to primary source books.

Selected E-books of Primary Source Documents

  Google Book Search

Search Google Books for scanned images of books published before 1923..

Google Book Search