The following strategies can be used in the Williams Libraries catalog and other library catalogs, such Williams WorldCat (a catalog of the holdings of over 10,000 libraries in the U.S. and around the world) and HathiTrust Digital Library (a database of digitized books from library collections).
To search by title, you need to have a known title in mind. See the bibliographies listed in reference sources and be sure to mine the bibliographies of class readings and other materials you find to identify relevant titles of primary sources.
Memoirs, speeches, writings, or correspondence of a person can be found by doing a Browse search by author using the name (last name first) of the person.
Papers of a governing body or an organization can also be searched as an author
Usually, catalog records have at least one subject heading describing the general topic of the book, video, or other material. Subject headings can be subdivided to indicate further topical breakdown, geographical location, time period, or the form of the composition. Some of the form subdivisions that indicate the items is a primary source include:
Personal narratives: first person accounts of a particular event or time period
Biography: may be autobiography or biography
Sources: collections of contemporary writings
Using the Advanced Search screen you can combine your topic with the subdivisions mentioned above. Choose to search in the subject field to make the searches more precise.
Remember, primary sources were written around the same time as an event or during a particular historical time period. To find contemporary writings, you can do subject searches and limit to the years in question. A word of caution: this search strategy will not find materials that were reprinted at a later date.