Think About Your Topic
Once you have decided upon a topic and have gathered some information about the background of your topic, including the key people, places, events, and dates involved, you can start to think about finding primary sources. Think about these questions in order to determine what types of information you will be searching for:
Manuscript collections or archives of organizational records often include some of the following keywords in their titles or content descriptions. By combining these words with words that describe your topic you are more likely to find primary sources:
An example of this type of search is "United States Civil War" AND diaries
Search by Author
To find diaries, letters, autobiographies, etc. search a person's name as an author which will give you results written by the person rather than results about them.
Books and Articles
Many secondary sources will include a Works Cited or Bibliography of the sources used by the author. Primary sources are frequently listed in these bibliographies.
Many of the databases allow you to limit your search to document types and to primary source types in the advanced search screen. For instance, in the database Academic Search Complete, go to the advanced search screen:
Once you are in the advanced search screen, scroll down and you will see document types. You can choose to search for letters and speeches, both of which are types of primary sources. It will look like this:
You may also search by primary source types. It will look like this: