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Primary Sources

How to find print and digital primary sources in the library and on the web.

Library Catalogs

Use the Beeghly Library (OPAL) Catalog to search for primary-source collections in our library, including ebooks.

For a broader search with more results, use the OhioLINK catalog.

Keywords to Find Primary Sources

Finding primary sources in the library catalog becomes a lot easier when you know the words used to describe them. 

Subject Terms

Many books with primary sources indicate that in their Subject tags, using certain set terms like "sources" or "diaries." You can limit your results to only records with these terms in the subject by adding them on a seperate line and changing that line's field to Subject (see the example below) or by putting the words inside parenthesis that has "d:" in front of it. Ex. d:(diaries)

Some common subject terms for primary sources are:

  • Sample keyword search for primary sources about women in the Civil War: (women AND "civil war") and d:(sources OR correspondence)Autobiographies—mostly used for collections of autobiographical works.
  • Correspondence—used for letters between people.
  • Diaries—attached to personal names or categories of people.
  • Letters—follows name.  Used less frequently than "correspondence" but pulls some works.
  • Personal Narratives—somewhat ambiguous term, used for sources such as memoirs, oral histories, and interviews.
  • Sources—catch-all term for primary sources, often used in collections with many types of primary sources.

Other Useful Search Words

Author Search

Author Search retrieves any works written by a specific person. Helpful with some primary source searches since you will get results written by Frederick Douglass rather than about him, for example. 

Enter names as Last Name, First Name