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Finding Primary Sources
When looking for primary sources, you need to consider:
- Who would create the documents? Who would preserve the documents?
- Who can be individuals or groups, such as local, regional, or international organizations, associations, and governmental agencies.
- How would the documents be preserved and accessed? Would they have been
- Formally published/produced, such as books, newspapers, magazines, films, music, court cases, etc.? You are likely to find these items in library databases.
- Informally published/produced web documents, such as press releases, reports, policy statements, etc.? You may find recent documents through Google or the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (going back to 1996).
- Personal or internal documents? If these materials were preserved, they may only be available through visiting private collections, library archives, museums, historical sites, or corporate/organization archives. A national library, public library, historical society, or university/college library may have digitized some of these materials. Interviews and oral histories produced as part of a scholarly research project are often only available from the researcher.
To find articles on a topic, there are several possible approaches. Click the plus sign to learn about each option.
- Subject-specific databases focus on the literature of the field, leading to more relevant and comprehensive results
- Advanced search functions allow for more precise searching
- Using the Find Text button leads to free full text provided through library subscriptions and interlibrary loan
- Need to use search syntax and functions of the database for best results; article databases do not search like Google
This guide provides links to article databases recommended for your course. See also the full list of article databases.
- Can search for books and articles at the same time
- Links to free full text provided through library subscriptions and interlibrary loan
- Does not have as many options as an article database for refining search results
- Does not include all the content from all of the library's article databases
Search the library catalog from the search box on the library home page, through the search widget embedded in research guides, or through this link.
- Can help you see what topics are important in the field
- Finds quality articles from a respected source
- Can be difficult to find an article on your specific topic
- Literature found will not be as comprehensive as searching in article databases, which cover hundreds of journals
Hint: Most article databases have a "Journal Title" search field or limit, so you can use these search functions to narrow your more comprehensive search results to these recommended titles.
- Easy to search; does not require special search syntax
- Can search across many subject disciplines at one time
- Usually finds something on any topic
- Difficult to refine search results; not as precise as searching in article databases
- Does not contain all of the articles found in library subscription article databases
- Need to evaluate the articles more carefully, especially ones found through general Google searches
- May run into a paywall to access the full text of the article
Hint: Enable the Find Text link in your Google Scholar settings or search for the article in the library catalog when you hit a paywall.
Sawyer Library Stacks Directory
Note: This table is for the location of items in Sawyer stacks. There are other library locations (such as Sawyer DVD, Sawyer Reserve, and Sawyer Reference) that also use this call number system. See library maps for further information.