History 378/Religion 258

American Conservatism
Professor: Casey Bohlen
Fall 2020

Search Strategies

The following strategies can be used in Williams library catalog and other library catalogs, such Williams WorldCat (a catalog of over 10,000 libraries around the world) and HathiTrust Digital Library (a digitized collection of materials at US research libraries).   

Search by Author

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 in the Williams catalog. You can also select the Author field in the Advanced Search in our catalog and other catalogs.


Publications and papers of organizations, political parties, and other groups can also be found by searching for the organization as an author.


Search by Subject and Keywords

Use the Advanced Search to combine your topic and types of primary sources. Usually, library catalog records have at least one Subject describing the general topic of the book, video, or other material. Subjects can be subdivided to indicate further topical breakdown, geographical location, time period, or the form of the composition. Some of the Subject form subdivisions that indicate the item is a primary source include:

  • Personal narratives
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Biography (includes autobiography)
  • Sources (used for a compilation of primary source documents)


  • subject: conservatism AND subject: United States AND subject: correspondence 
  • subject: conservatism AND subject: United States AND subject: sources

Search by Title

One way to find primary sources is mining the footnotes of secondary sources. What primary sources did the historian use as evidence? If they used published sources, search for those items by title.

Limit by Date

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 searches in the library catalog 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.