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Primary Sources: Additional Resources

Need to do primary source work for a paper or project? Here's a collection of library and other resources to get you started.

Finding Primary Sources Online

The list of collections to the right includes just a sampling of the wealth of sources available online. If you don't see what you're looking for, consider some of these strategies for seeking additional sources:

1. Browse a history subject directory. Subject directories are useful when you are interested in seeing a broad variety of sources on your topic. Some subject directories include annotations and evaluations of sites. Some examples:

2. Use a search engine. Google Scholar might be a good choice (see box at rfar right). Search engines are useful when you are researching a narrow topic or trying to locate a specific document. When searching, use specific terms rather than broad terms. For example search for the “emancipation proclamation” not just “slavery,” search for the “battle of chancellorsville” not “civil war.” The more specific you can be, the better results you will get.

3. Get recommendations from your professor or librarian. Many libraries compile lists of recommended history sites. Some examples include:

4. Check published guides to history web sites. If you get an early start, you can request one of the following titles through MOBIUS:

  • The European History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources. Dennis A. Trinkle and Scott A. Merriman, editors. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2002.
  • History and the Internet: A Guide. By Patrick D. Reagan. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
  • Using Internet Primary Sources to Teach Critical Thinking Skills in History. By Kathleen W. Craver. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

5. Look for "Best of" posts and other reviews like this curated list from BachelorsDegreeOnline: 100 Terrific Sites to Find Primary History Documents.

Free Download

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

Idea Book Cover Image

Inspired by the Library of Congress exhibition of the same name, the Idea Book presents dozens of unique primary sources from the Library’s collections that illuminate the unjust laws and practices that preceded the act, coupled with teaching ideas that allow educators to prompt critical analysis and informed debate by their students.


Evaluating Primary Source Websites

Before relying on the information provided by a website, examine and understand its purpose. While the purpose might not affect the accuracy of the primary source material it contains, it might indicate that the material has been altered or manipulated in some way to change or influence its meaning.

In general, look for websites with a non-biased, balanced approach to presenting sources. Websites produced by educational or governmental institution often are more reliable than personal websites, but government sites may be subject to propaganda.

Use the PACAC method outlined in the RESEARCH HELP pages to guide your thinking and help you ask the right questions about Purpose, Authority, Currency, Accuracy, and Content.

More tips from the Reference and User Services Association are available HERE.

Digital Collections

Smarter Searching

Google Scholar Search

Search for scholarly information with links to Fontbonne Library resources. If you can't access full-text, visit the Library website and request the article via Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and we'll e-mail it to you when it arrives.

Use Google's Advanced Image Search to find relevant photos and other images.

Analyzing Sources

National Archives logo

Learning how to use primary sources as evidence can be confusing. Use these handy worksheets from the National Archives to help you get started. 

National Newspapers

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Looking for content from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? Articles from 1989 to the present are available online through ProQuest's Newstand. Some libraries have archives of older issues (usually on microfilm), which can be searched by date and requested through Interlibrary Loan.

Other historical publications are also available through the library databases (see the Digital Resources list) and via Heritage Quest Online.

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