History 391: Primary Sources in Library Catalogs

When India was the World: Trade, Travel and History in the Indian Ocean
Professor: Aparna Kapadia
Spring 2019

Search Strategies

These search strategies can be used in any library catalog including the Williams library catalog, the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) catalog, Williams WorldCat, and HathiTrust Digital Library.

Search by Author

Memoirs, speeches, writings, or correspondence of a person can be found by doing an author search in library catalogs using the name (enter the last name first) of the person.  Author searches can also be used for governments, organizations, and corporations.

Search by Subject

Usually, library 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 subdivisions that indicate the item is a primary source include:

Sources: collections of contemporary documents and writings

Description and Travel: includes travelers' accounts

Search by Keywords

Using an Advanced Search you can combine keywords for your topic with the Subject subdivisions mentioned above. 

Search by Title

To search by title, you need to have a known title in mind. Bibliographies can help identify relevant titles. See the Reference Sources portion of the research guide for suggestions, and consult the bibliographies from class readings and the secondary sources you find in your research.

When you find relevant items in library catalogs, look to see whether the item is part of a series.  Search on the series title and a keyword for your topic to see if there are other relevant items published in that series.

Limit Searches by Date

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 library catalogs by subject 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

Search the Library Catalog

Find books, articles, & more

Search Williams WorldCat

Find items at other libraries

Advanced Search