Find Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources? (Helpful link from Yale University)


Tips for Finding Primary Sources in RhinoCat

  • Do an Author search using the name of a person related to your topic to find books, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies written by that person.
  • Do an Author search using the name of the United States President in office at the time to find Public Papers, as well as books, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies.
  • Do a Keyword search of your person's name to identify writings, interviews, speeches in anthologies and collections.

To find primary sources on your topic in our catalog:

1. Go to the Library homepage:
2. Paste the following exact word string into the basic keyword search box:
su,wrdl: personal narratives or su,wrdl: sources or su,wrdl: diaries and kw,phr: vietnam war
3. Simply substitute your subject or subject phrase for vietnam war


Taft Online Subscriptions Websites

Primary Sources in Encyclopedias and Reference Books/ eBooks by Subject

Note: there can be some crossover between subject areas, for example, history and social sciences, so you should check both.

B Religion, Philosophy

C Auxiliary sciences of history, Biography

D History – General World History and Outside the Americas

E-F History – United States, Canada and Latin America

G Environment, Geography, Recreation

H Social Sciences (including Economics, Social history, Sociology, Criminology)

  • 1960s counterculture: documents decoded. Ref HN 59 .W525 2015
  • The 9/11 encyclopedia. Ref HV 6432.7 .A85 2008 2 vols (v. 2, Primary Sources)
  • Addiction, a reference encyclopedia. Ref HV 5825 .P26 2010
  • Alcohol and drugs in North America: a historical encyclopedia. Ref HV 5017 .A43 2013 2 vols (v.2 contains documents)
  • The American economy : a historical encyclopedia. Ref HC102 .A66 2011 2 vols (v.2 contains Primary Sources)
  • American social reform movements reference library, 5v, 2007 (an online ebook; v. 4, Primary Sources)
  • Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources. 2006 (an online ebook)
  • Crime and punishment in America. Ref HV6799 .W65 2010 (also an online ebook)
  • Crime and punishment in America Reference Library. 2005 (an online ebook; v. 4, Primary Sources)
  • Daily life through world history in primary documents. 2009 3 vols (an online ebook)
  • Development of the industrial U.S. reference library. (an online ebook; v. 3, Primary Sources)
  • Encyclopedia of American recessions and depressions. Ref HB 3743 .E53 2014 2 vols (v.2 contains Primary Documents)
  • Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the transatlantic world. Ref HT 985 .E53 2007 3 vols (v.3, Documents)
  • Encyclopedia of the global economy: a guide for students and researchers. Ref HF1359 .O28 2006 2 vols (v. 2, Primary Documents and Statistical Tables)
  • Encyclopedia of leadership. Ref HD57.7 .E53 2004 4 vols (v. 4 contains documents)
  • Encyclopedia of race and racism. Ref HT 1521 .E543 2008 3 vols (also an online ebook; v. 3, Primary Sources)
  • Encyclopedia of war crimes and genocide. Ref HV 6322.7 .H67 2011 2 vols (v. 2, Primary documents) (also an online ebook)
  • Encyclopedia of women in American history. Ref HQ1410 .E53 2002 3 vols
  • Encyclopedia of world trade: from ancient times to the present. Ref HF 1373 .W67 2005 4 vols (v. 4, Documents)
  • From suffrage to the Senate: America's political women. Ref HQ 1236.5 .U6 S32 2013 2 vols (v. 2 contains documents)
  • The Gallup Poll: Public opinion, 1935-1971. Ref HN90 .P8 G3 3 vols
  • The Gallup Poll: Public opinion, 1994-2010. Ref HN90 .P8 G35 16 vols
  • Gender roles in American life: a documentary history of political, social, and economic changes. Ref HV 1075.5 .U6 G4674 2018  2 vols 
  • Global social Issues: an encyclopedia. Ref H41 .G56 2013 3 vols (Documents throughout)
  • Government, politics, and protest: essential primary sources, 2007 (an online ebook)
  • The Great Society and the war on poverty: an economic legacy in essays and documents. Ref HV 95 .B757 2017
  • The Industrial Revolution: history, documents, and key questions. Ref HD2321 .H67 2016 (also an online ebook)
  • Industrial Revolution reference library. Ref HD 2329 .O978 2003 4 vols (also an online ebook; v.3, Primary Sources)
  • Industrialization in the modern world: from the Industrial revolution to the Internet. Ref HD 2321 .H56 2014 2 vols (Primary Sources, vol. 2)
  • LGBTQ+ (1923-2017). Defining documents in American History series. Ref HQ76.8.U55 L43 2018 2 vols (also an online ebook)
  • Mass shootings in America: understanding the debates, causes, and responses. Ref HV6529 .M378 2018
  • Modern genocide: the definitive resource and document collection. Ref HV6322.7 .M63 2015 4 vols (Documents throughout)
  • Prejudice in the modern world reference library, 5v, 2007 (v. 4, Primary Sources)
  • The rise of communism: history, documents, and key questions. Ref HX 36 .Z36 2018 (also an online ebook)
  • Slavery in the modern world: a history of political, social and economic oppression. Ref HT 867 .S527 2011 2 vols (Vol. 2 contains documents)
  • Social policy: essential primary sources, 2007 (an online ebook)
  • Women in American history: a social, political, and cultural encyclopedia and document collection. Ref HQ 1410 .W6468 2017 4 vols (Also an online ebook; Documents throughout)
  • Women's rights (1429-2017). Defining documents in world history series. Ref HQ1236 .W664 2018 2 vols (also an online ebook)
  • Women's rights : documents decoded. Ref HQ1236.5.U6 S55 2014
  • Women's rights in the United States: a comprehensive encyclopedia of issues, events, and people. Ref HQ1236.5.U6 W677 2015 4 vols (Documents at end of each vol.)
  • The world's population : an encyclopedia of critical issues, crises, and ever-growing countries. Ref HB 871 .S534 2014 (Documents at end of book)
  • Terrorism reference library, 4v, 2003 (an online ebook; v. 3, Primary Sources)

J Political Science

K Law

P Language and Literature

  • American history through its greatest speeches: a documentary history of the United States. Ref PS662 .A46 2017 3 vols
  • American women speak: an encyclopedia and document collection of women's oratory. Ref PS 663 .W65 S56 2017 2 vols (also an online ebook)
  • Bartlett's familiar Black quotations. Ref PN6081.3 .B37 2013
  • The bully pulpit : quotations from America's presidents. Ref PN6080 .B9 1988
  • Dictionary of literary biography: documentary series. Ref PS 129 .D48 1982 2 vols
  • The founders on religion : a book of quotations. Ref PN6084.R3 F68 2005
  • People on people : the Oxford dictionary of biographical quotations. Ref PN6084.C44 P46 2001
  • The Oxford dictionary of political quotations. Ref PN6084.P6 O94 1996 (2012 ed. available as an online ebook)
  • The quotable woman, revised edition : the first 5,000 years. Ref PN6081.5 .Q65 2011
  • In our own words: extraordinary speeches of the American century. Ref PS 661 .I53 1999
  • Speeches in world history. Ref PN6122 .S64 2009
  • Television in American society reference library. 4v,2007 (v. 3, Primary Sources)
  • Voices of multicultural America : notable speeches delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans, 1790-1995. Ref PS663.M55 V64 1996
  • The world encyclopedia of comics. Ref PN6710 .W6 1998 7 vols (v.7 includes transcripts of 1954 U.S. Senate hearing)

R Medicine

S Agriculture

T Technology

U Military Science

Also available in the Taft Library

  • American Slave. Former slaves talk about life in slavery and after emancipation, collected by the Federal Works Progress Administration in the 1930s .Use "quick search" to search by keyword
  • The Annals of America. Main Collection / E 173 .A793 (21 volumes) This set, organized in chronological order contains over 2000 source readings drawn from the American past - articles, speeches, letters, songs, poems, and official documents..
  • English Historical Documents. Main Collection / DA 26 .E55 (12 volumes; missing vols 3, 6, 7, 12-pt.2) These volumes, organized in chronological order, contain documents dating from before The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, c. 500 - 1189, 1327 - 1558, and 1660-1874.


Jackdaws are folders containing facsimilies of primary source documents on a given subject. They are located in the drawers beneath the Library printer.

    • Go to the Library homepage
    • Click on Advanced Search to enter the advanced search screen
    • In the Keyword field, type a very general subject such as: civil war, Vietnam, railroad, women
    • Scroll down to Item Type and choose Jackdaw
    • Click Search

Taft Online Subscription Databases

  • 19th Century US Newspapers Digital Archive Contains hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers
  • African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 Full-text access to 270 historically significant African-American newspapers from across the U.S.
  • American History Online Overview essays, biographies, primary sources, videos and slideshows, images, timelines, and maps and graphs in American political, military, social, and cultural history. Includes expanded coverage of American women's history and U.S. government information.
  • American Periodicals (1740 - 1940) Contains periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically-significant periodicals.
  • America's Historical Newspapers Full-text coverage of America's historical newspapers from 1690-2000
  • Ancient and Medieval History Online Overview essays, biographies, events and topics, primary source documents, timelines, maps and charts, images and videos on eight ancient and medieval civilizations
  • Annals of American History Search 2700+ primary source documents and multimedia by author, decade, or topic
  • Annual Register A year-by-year record of British and world events, published annually since 1758. The online version of the Annual Register is a digitized version of this classic 250+ volume reference work. Every year, a new volume is published describing the past year's events.
  • Classroom Video On Demand Contains archival films and newsreels beginning with World War I
  • Daily Life Through History (Academic) Explore aspects of everyday life in different historical eras
  • Hartford Courant 1764-1922 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers) Full-text of America's longest-running newspaper
  • Issues & Controversies in American History Background, outcomes, and contemporary points of view for every major debate and conflict in American history.
  • JSTOR A subscription service, initiated by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to convert back runs of important scholarly journals from paper into electronic formats. Many titles date back to the 1800s. It contains the following primary source collections: 19th Century British Pamphlets Collection, Struggles for Freedom: South Africa, Global Plants, and World Heritage Sites: Africa.
  • Modern World History Online Overview essays, biographies, events and topics, primary source documents, timelines, maps and charts, images and videos from the mid-15th century to the present.
  • National Geographic Virtual Library Features the entire magazine archive 1888 - present
  • New York Times 1851-2009 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers) Full-text coverage back to the first issue in 1851 (
  • New York Times 1980-current (ProQuest) Traditional interface and full-text coverage
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective Contains the complete indexing of The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, 1890-1982, and full text content where available.
  • The Times (London) Digital Archive 1785-2012 More than 200 years of news in full facsimile images from London's premier newspaper
  • U. S. History in Context Comprehensive collection of reference sources, primary documents, periodicals, maps and multimedia
  • Women and Social Movements (the history of women in social movements in the U.S. between 1600 and 2000 with thousands of primary source documents).
  • World History in Context Comprehensive collection of reference sources, primary documents, periodicals, maps and multimedia



Increasingly, libraries are making archival resources and special collections accessible through the Web. Many digital library collections contain excellent primary resources such as photographs, scanned images of letters, or the full-text of books and journals.

To find primary sources using Google, the following will work, but be sure to evaluate the website.

This search will find primary source documents relating to the Berlin Wall on the internet.

Search Tip Add the phrase site:gov OR site:edu to limit your results to the domain .gov for U.S. government agencies and the domain .edu for educational institutions in the U.S, the two most reliable domains.

You might also find some valuable primary source material in Google Books, which contains millions of digitized books. Books that are in the public domain may be available in their entirety; these include books published in the U.S. before 1923, but also many other works may be available due to failure to renew copyright, for instance. To find books, do a keyword, author, or title search and then click on Tools to display limiters. To find entire books that are available for free, choose Free Google ebooks.

Updated 7/2018