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HIST200: Research Gateway

This guide will help you find high-quality primary and secondary sources for your research project in History 200. For those of you who are planning to major or minor in history, this guide also introduces several of the research techniques you will need for future projects.

Primary Sources - Secondary Sources - Citations - Questions?

Primary Sources

For this project (and for most college-level projects that are not based on archival research in Augustana's Special Collections or other institutions), your primary sources will come from books and edited collections, library databases, and Internet digital archives.


Use ALiCat and I-Share to search for books containing primary sources. You will likely use one of two options:

  • If you know of a specific author or title you would like to locate, type in your keyword(s) and change the drop-down menu to "author" or "title." However, not all primary sources will be available this way . . .
  • To find edited collections, go to the Advanced Search and search the term "sources" as a subject, combined with your keyword(s). This strategy works best if you start with a fairly broad search to determine what is available; the document you need may even turn up as one source in a wider-ranging collection. Any book you find that has the term "sources" (or, possibly, "correspondence" or "personal narratives") in the subject heading contains primary sources.

Library Databases

Use the following path to access the library's databases in history:

  • Library website --> Databases --> History, Religion & Philosophy --> History

This list contains both primary and secondary source databases, so read the description carefully before you try a database!

For this project, you might try Social and Cultural History: Letters and Diaries Online, which contains several primary source collections. The collection most likely to help you is "North American Women's Letters and Diaries," which covers much of the colonial period. Limit to that collection via the drop-down menu at the bottom right corner of the database's main page.

American Periodicals Series (APS) may also prove useful, but only if you are researching the late colonial period. APS goes back to 1740.

Internet Digital Archives

Many free web archives of digitized primary source documents exist on the Internet. As you identify archives relevant to your project, consider the authority and credibility of the organizations providing those documents. Organizations like these are most likely to have high-quality digital archives:

  • Colleges, universities, and academic libraries, which will be in the .edu domain.
  • Museums, historical societies, and public libraries, which are likely to have .org addresses.
  • The United States government, which is in the .gov domain.

Before you select a primary source document from the Internet, confirm which organization(s) provided that document. To find this information, go to the main archive website or look for an "About Us" or "Who We Are" link.

Here are two examples of high-quality sources of primary documents on the Internet:

  • Early Americas Digital Archive ( From the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland, this site provides access to texts written in or about America between 1492 and 1820. I recommend clicking on "Archive," then "Advanced Search" for the most effective search options.
  • American Memory ( This is the portal to numerous primary document collections provided by the Library of Congress and other institutions. I recommend clicking "Browse," then selecting a date range to find collections relevant to the colonial period.

Secondary Sources

ALiCat and I-Share will be essential as you search for secondary sources. As a discipline, history relies heavily on monographs (book-length scholarly studies); therefore, chances are good that some of the most important studies on your topic have been published as books. A couple of tips:

  • Start with a keyword search, then narrow using the limiters on the right-hand side of the results screen; note that you can narrow by the time period in history that the book addresses
  • When you find a useful book, click on the title then follow one of the book's subject headings (or "Topics") for more on the same subject
  • Order your I-Share books early! They take 3-5 business days to arrive

Find the library's article databases in history via this path:

  • Library website --> Databases --> History, Religion & Philosophy --> History

At the top of the list of history databases you will see a link to Ebsco Databases in History. This allows you to select one of the library's Ebsco history databases, or search both at once. The databases you will find here are:

  • America: History & Life. Covers the history of the U.S. and Canada from pre-history to the present. This is the main secondary source article database you will use in this class.
  • Historical Abstracts. Covers the history of the world (except the U.S. and Canada) from 1450 to the present. This will only be useful if your project has a significant European, African, or other non-U.S./Canada component.

Further up on the History, Religion & Philosophy page you will see a list of more general databases suitable to "All Humanities." Here you will find JSTOR, a full-text, multidisciplinary database that is another good option for your project. In JSTOR, go to the Advanced Search screen, where you can limit your search to particular subject areas (for example, American studies or history).


Online guides to citation styles, including Chicago Manual of Style, are linked at the library's "Citing Sources" page:

  • Library website --> Citing Sources (under "Research Tools")


As the history librarian at Augustana, I see this class as a good opportunity to get to know history majors and minors! You are welcome to contact me with any questions about your research for this project. My email address is, and I work at the research help desk (on 2nd floor by the elevators) off and on throughout the week.

Or, approach any Augustana librarian for help at the research help desk: in-person, or by phone (309-794-7206), email (, or the chat box on the main library webpage.

Need an in-depth research appointment? Click "Ask a Librarian" on the library home page, scroll down to "Make an appointment for in-depth research help," and fill out the form. Or, feel free to email me directly.

Page created by Stefanie Bluemle, librarian for history, religion, and philosophy. Updated April 2014.