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HIST 422: Advanced Research & Writing Colloquium (Hooper)


Collections of Primary Sources


  • When a database has an Advanced Search form, try using the Advanced Search features to refine your search.
  • Since these databases cover many decades, it can be helpful to limit your search to a specific date range.
  • Think about what terms that might have been used to in articles about your topic during the time period. For example: the name of a specific person or organization or even a term that wouldn't be used today.
  • Some databases allow you to limit your search to articles from a specific geographic area. Try doing this when researching events from a specific region.
  • These databases often sort results in chronological order. In some cases, it might be helpful to sort by relevance/best matches first.
  • In addition to searching, try browsing these collections to learn about sources that you wouldn't have necessarily thought of searching for.


For even more options, visit:

[for information on finding periodicals not available electronically, see the bottom of this box, or the Access Sources page]

Print & Film Resources in Dinand

Particularly with older primary sources, you will find that there are some articles which the library owns in physical (or microfilm) copy, but not electronically.

How do I know which article(s) I need? 

Unlike with electronic databases, it's not usually possible to quickly search across a print or film run of a journal. Some periodicals will have an index volume and/or roll of film where articles are listed by author, title, and/or keyword, but this is not always true. You may find it helpful to identify an event and/or date ahead of time so that you know where to start browsing! 

Other than browsing there is no one single way to locate relevant articles, but the two main methods are as follows: 

  1. Use article databases (or electronic indexes) to locate articles from the appropriate time period. The library catalog will tell you which journals we have in physical copy, and where. Then, use the citation you found to browse to the correct volume/year, issue (if applicable) and page number. 
  2. Search the library catalog for periodicals from this time period (either those suggested by your professor, or those you have found elsewhere).  Peruse volumes for the appropriate years to look for potentially-relevant sources.

How do I get to the articles? 

Print journals will have call numbers assigned, and will be located in the stacks with books on similar subjects. See the Access Sources page of this guide for detailed instructions on using a citation to find a print journal. 

You will find that some older periodical sources are available only on microfilm. Periodicals on microfilm are stored page-by-page in a long row of film, which the user then scrolls through using a special machine and magnifier.  Examples of periodicals that Dinand has on microfilm include the Boston PilotEbonyEssence, Rolling StoneJet, the New YorkerSportswomanUSA Today, and US News & World Report

Dinand's microfilm collection is held in storage at the basement. Stop by the circulation desk to request the rolls you would like to review, and a staff member will retrieve them for you. Dinand's microfilm viewing machine is located on the main floor of the library, in the Visual Arts Wing near the conference room. Ask a librarian for help getting started with the machine! 



For more options, visit:

BOOKS (incl. memoirs)

In the Library:

You can find many kinds of primary sources in the library. This could include writings published during the relevant time period as well as editions of primary accounts/documents that were re-published later. 

When searching in the Library Catalog, used Advanced Search to choose a publication date range. When using CrossSearch, you can check the Catalog box on the left navigation bar to only search for items in the library catalog, then use the date slider to look at publication dates in your time period. 

Unsure about finding books in the library stacks? The handout attached here will give you some starting points. 

You can also watch our video tutorial 📺 to learn more about how call numbers work. Or, check out the Library of Congress Classification Outline for a detailed breakdown of our call number system. 

Keyword tips for finding primary sources in Dinand: 

  • Try the name of a specific region (including names they might have been known by in the past) or individual. 
  • When formulating search terms, try to think of period language. 
  • All books in the catalog are labeled with a kind of tag, called subject headings, that tells you what the book is about and brings together all the books on similar topics. You can use these tags by clicking on them, by using them as keyword inspiration, or by browsing them in the Library Catalog under Guided Browse. 

A note on historical language: Because the call number arrangement and subject headings used in the Library of Congress system are quite old, both the organization and the language used can sometimes be problematic. Librarians as a profession are working hard to change the way our information is organized -- but in the meantime, subject headings will help you find information filed under terminology we wouldn't typically use today. 




There are many wonderful primary source collections available online through various museums, libraries and other cultural institutions. Below are listed a few that you might find useful: 

...and others!  Let me know if you'd like help locating some for your specific topic. 

Some of the best digitized primary sources exist in scattered repositories dedicated to specific topics, collections, etc. But how do you find them?

Google Site Search is an invaluable tool for locating primary sources on the web: 

  • site:*.gov troubles "northern ireland" will search for references to the "Troubles" and Northern Ireland across US government websites. 
  • site:*.edu troubles "northern ireland" will search the same on educational websites, which will hit many libraries, archives and universities, so read critically for bias); site:*.org troubles "northern ireland" will conduct the search across non-profit websites (including museums and other cultural heritage institutions). 
  • Looking for sources from a specific country? Most countries have their own domain. For example, to find sources posted on Irish websites, you could search site:*.ie; for government sites specifically, try: site:* For Northern Ireland, you would want to use site:* Just be aware of where these sources are coming from, and evaluate the websites carefully! 
  • Government websites offer a wealth of sources and information, but can be very unwieldy to navigate. Google Site Search can allow you to search a site more efficiently. For example, if you were hoping to find what the FBI has to say about crime sprees in the 1970s, you could use site:* crime 1970s to search the FBI website for that information.

You should also pay attention to any collections of primary sources referenced in your secondary sources. For example, if a course reading mentions that a particular university's archives have an important collection of documents relating to experimental theater, you should visit the archives' site to find out if they have digitized any of these sources. 


During COVID-19 and other factors, many archives and libraries are still limiting visitors. You should carefully research the status of any collections before planning to make a visit. In many cases, archives which are closed or restricted are offering virtual assistance and/or scanning to researchers. Jennifer can help you to determine if that is the case for any collections you wish to consult. 


American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is an independent research library founded in 1812 in Worcester. The library's collections document the life of America's people from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction, with resources such as a books and pamphlets and manuscripts. You'll need a letter from your professor, explaining your research.

Explore the library's collections using their Advanced Search. If you are looking for a newspaper, you can search their list of newspaper holdings.

Worcester Public Library 

If your research touches upon local history, don't forget to check out the Worcester Public Library's resources. The library's main branch in downtown Worcester offers an extensive collection of primary source materials for local research, ranging from newspaper clippings to city directories and maps, as well as a helpful librarian specializing in local history and genealogy research (contacting her is highly recommended!).  Don't forget that as ARC members, you are eligible to register for a Worcester Public Library card; if you are from the local area, you can also use your CW/MARS library card from home. 

For more information about the Worcester Public Library's resources for local history, visit their website , or view the handout below which includes contact information for the Local History & Genealogy Librarian: 


Use WorldCat to explore the catalogs of other libraries around the world. 

You can also use WorldCat's Archive Grid (in beta) to explore archival and manuscript descriptions so that you can find libraries, museums and archives related to your topic.

In the Archives


The third floor of Dinand is home to the Holy Cross College Archives & Distinctive Collections. The Archives preserve the history of the College and life on campus. The Distinctive Collections are home to a variety of unique collections acquired over the course of the past 180 years, including rare and old books; personal papers of and objects owned by alumni, Jesuits, and other notables; the Deaf Catholic Archives; the Hiatt Holocaust Collection; and materials pertaining to the history of Worcester and New England, to name just a few. Depending on your topic, you may want to explore the Archives as a rich source of primary research! 

Not sure if there is anything in the Archives & Distinctive Collections for your project? Use the Ask an Archivist tab in this box. Our Archives & Distinctive Collections staff would be more than happy to guide you. 


Research in archival collections is usually guided by finding aids -- documents similar to library catalog records which describe the history and contents of a particular archival collection.  You can access information about collections through the Archives Search, browsing the Distinctive Collections Holdings and Archives Collections websites, or visiting their Research Guide: 

Distinctive Collections 

There are many different kinds of materials in the Distinctive Collections. These range from papers and manuscripts, to physical objects, artworks and even books. 

There are some items in the Distinctive Collections that you can find, as with archival collections, through finding aids and in the Archives Search. You can also browse the Distinctive Collections Holdings websites. Rare books (and similar) in the Distinctive Collections may also be listed in CrossSearch and the Library Catalog. 


Some tips to keep in mind if you are considering archival research: 

  • Archives & Distinctive Collections are located on the 3rd floor of Dinand Library.  They are open during the week (Mon-Fri) by appointment only 9am-12pm, and for general research (no appointment needed) 1-4pm.  They are also open 6-9pm Mon & Tues evenings.
  • Although appointments are only required in the mornings, it is highly recommended that you reach out to the (very helpful!) staff before your visit for guidance and to let them know what materials you would like to view. You can contact them at 
  • Before visiting, make sure you are familiar with the policies and procedures. Note especially that you are not allowed to use pens or highlighters in the reading room, to protect the materials, but lockers are provided to store any such items as well as food, drink etc. 
  • Archival research does not come with electronic searching, and can be an exciting (but time-consuming) journey! -- make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to browse the collections and to digest what you find. And, be sure to take excellent notes! 


You can use this easy form to ask a question or make an appointment with our Archives & Distinctive Collections staff. Or, email