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.

To easily 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)

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
  • 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
  • Classroom Video On Demand Contains archival films and newsreels beginning with World War I
  • Daily Life Through History 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 context 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 digitizing archival resources and providing access to these special collections 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 technique will work, but be sure to evaluate the website.

This search will find Vietnam war documents on the internet. You can further refine your search by adding the phrase and site:[domain]

  • Site:edu will find documents on U. S. college and university websites.
  • Site:gov will find U. S. government websites containing Vietnam war documents.
  • Site:mil will find websites from the United States Dept. of Defense (and subsidiary or affiliated organizations) containing Vietnam war documents.

You might also find some great 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 6/2018