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Primary Sources

Learn about primary sources and discover a wealth of sources in UH Special Collections and around the world.

Finding Primary Sources in Databases

Some databases provide access to digital or digitized primary sources. Digitized primary sources in databases are no longer in their original formats, but they are still considered to be primary source materials.

The video below can help you search databases successfully.

Keywords and Terminology

Terminology changes over time and will vary based on the perspective of the person who created the source.

Try searching with terms that correspond with the time period you are researching. This can help you find materials that may not yet have current-day language applied in a descriptive section.

For instance, if you wanted to find primary sources from 1918 about some aspect of World War I, you may try the search term "The Great War" instead of "World War I," since "The Great War" is how people living during the war referred to it.

It's always a good idea to try a couple of searches using different keywords to see what terms are most effective for your topic.

You can use background sources, scholarly sources, or help from your instructor or a librarian if you need assistance determining the most effective keywords to use in your searches.

Some primary or secondary sources may not exist in databases or may be very difficult to find.

Libraries, archives, and databases are not exempt from the norms of dominant culture or existing power structures. They have traditionally collected and described items that reflect what is valued by the dominant culture.

Many librarians and archivists are actively working to increase the diversity of people represented in their materials and to remedy problematic terminology used in descriptive materials, although this work is an ongoing process.

It is likely, but not guaranteed, that you will still be able to locate valuable primary sources for any research question. For some topics, you may need to use a creative approach to finding and locating applicable sources. UH librarians are happy to help you generate a research strategy.

Selected Primary Source Databases

Related Resources

For additional databases for finding primary sources, consult the applicable resource guide for the discipline(s) in which you are doing research: