ENG 295 (Banner): Primary Sources

Tips for using primary sources databases

We have so many great primary source databases for historical research that it can be overwhelming.  Here are some tips to help you navigate them.

  1. First, talk to Professor Banner about your topic.  She can give you guidance about what types of sources you could hope to find.  You don't want to waste a lot of looking for sources that just don't exist.  Primary source research is best done near the end of the research process.  You need to already know quite a bit about the historical context of your work to have much success.
  2. Next, eliminate databases that don't fit the location you are working on.  Most of our databases are either just American or just British/European sources.
  3. Third, look at the date ranges for the databases.  Now you will probably be down to just a handful of choices.
  4. Read the short description on the database page to see what sort of materials are in each database.  This might eliminate a few.
  5. Go into the ones that look promising and look for the about page within the database-- it will have a much more detailed description of what you can find.
  6. Before you start searching, look for a search tips page within the database.  We get these from a bunch of different vendors so they don't all work the same.  Knowing how the search is set up in that particular database helps a lot.
  7. Be patient!  Looking for primary sources is usually harder than searching for secondary sources, but it can be very rewarding to find a great source.

Take a look at this page where you can get a feel for the types of materials and subject areas that primary sources can cover!

Primary sources databases for Black Hawk and Stephen Crane

Databases related to slavery and abolition:

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