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History Day: Primary Sources

Research resources and help for students participating in History Day

primary sources

How to Search for Primary Source Materials

1. Find the keywords (and related words) from your research question or research topic. 

Example: How did the invention of the printing press affect the exchange of information in Europe? 

Keywords: printing press, Europe, information exchange, invention

Related keywords: Gutenberg, moveable type, literacy, reading, books

2. Choose an information resource to search; this can be a library's catalog, a database, an archive, or another resource

Decide what information resource might be most useful; ask your teacher or a librarian for help

Check out the "About" page of online archives to figure out if it covers your topic. 

3. Search the information resource you've chosen using the keywords you created in step one. 

Try out different combinations of your keywords to see which bring back the best results for your research. Record what works best in your research journal. 

4. Repeat until you've found all the information you need to answer your research question. 

Finding Online, Primary Source Materials

There are many digital archives containing digitized and “born digital” primary sources. Some are listed below to get you started. You can also try an open web search for “your topic” and “digital archive.”

General, multiple foci online archives
Focus on United States History
Greek and Roman

Primary Source Resources at Cal State East Bay

Search using the library's catalog

Some primary sources are reproduced in book format

Search the Databases A-Z List [on-campus access only]

  • Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
  • Historical American Newspapers
  • Independent Voices: Collection of alternative press materials
  • New York Times: 1851-2012
  • ProQuest Newsstand
  • Slavery & Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive
  • Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000
History LibGuide

Check out the History LibGuide from Cal State East Bay for more links to online resources and hints for finding archives around the Bay Area

Finding Archives

You can use these databases to find physical and digital collections in archives that are relevant to your research. Many of the archives in Online Archive of California are located around the Bay Area, including the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and many have digitized collections, too. 

Check out the page Local Libraries and Archives in this guide for links to other libraries and archives that you may want to visit for your research.