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History 301 - Strathman

Three Steps to Finding Primary Sources on Google

Search Terms

Make a list of search words and phrases related to your search. You will edit and refine this list as you go through your search process and learn more. 

Things to consider:

  • Terms may have changed over time. For example, "The Great War" was used in the time of WWI. 
  • Be prepared to find and use terms (in searching, not in writing) that are outdated or offensive. 
  • Think about non-academic terms that might be used.

Date Range

  • Create a timeline and plot the date ranges by key events. 
  • Add 70 years to account for memoirs, interviews and reflections.

Google Advanced Search

Use domain limiter (.org, .edu, .gov) - but be careful. These sites could still be business or political sites masquerading as information sources.

Additional primary source search terms to try if needed:

  • "special collections"
  • "digital exhibit"
  • "teacher's kit"
  • library
  • museum
  • manuscripts

Or, try these format specific search terms:

  • "archival footage"
  • ephemera
  • ledgers
  • newspapers

source: Robin M. Katz, How to Google for Primary Sources. (Click for additional search terms.)

To evaluate your sources, go as far as you can. Look for:

  • The repository - is it trusted organization or agency?
  • Collections - are there related sources that may be helpful?
  • Metadata - for context and further information
  • The source itself. Can you watch/download/read/see it?

source: Robin M. Katz, Evaluating Primary Sources Online. (Click for more.)