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HIS3942: Labor in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

A Guide for Students in Dr. Steven Noll's History Practicum

 Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources are available at UF in a variety of physical formats, including books, periodicals, microform, and archival materials. Finding primary sources in the physical collections can be challenging since they are often shelved alongside secondary sources. The library catalog can help you to locate primary sources that may be on the shelf.

Start by conducting a search for your topic in the UF Library Catalog.

The search bar for the UF Libraries Catalog has the search term civil war in quotes. The dropdown option to search in the UF Library Catalog has been circled.


Use the "Genre" facet to limit your results to types of primary sources. Look for terms such as Biography, Correspondence, Diaries, Early Works, Facsimiles, Interviews, Manuscripts, Narratives, Notebooks, Pamphlets, Sources, or Speeches.

Results from a library catalog search of the phrase Civil War with the focus on the search facet filter on the left. Arrows point to genre types that indicate primary sources.

Note: The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which determine the Genre facet, use "Sources" instead of "Primary Sources." "Biography" also refers to autobiographies.

Several of the databases available through the UF Libraries contain primary sources. The contents of these databases can vary widely. Some offer access to the contents of one or two specific archival collections, while others draw on contents held by multiple organizations. Some databases are curated to contain documents related to a specific topic, while others cover multiple topics but may focus on a type of source, such as newspapers or sound recordings.

To find databases that focus on primary sources, a good starting point is to go to the A-Z Databases list and filter your results by "Vendor/Provider." A few vendors focus on primary source content.

  • Accessible Archives focuses on transcribed content from historical newspapers and periodicals from the United States.
  • Adam Matthew Digital UK has digitized primary sources from archives in the US and the UK.
  • East View produces databases containing global newspaper and periodical content with an emphasis on Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
  • Newsbank has databases for global, national, and local newspapers.

The following databases have a broad range of primary sources covering multiple topics and time periods:

The Special and Area Studies Collections (SASC) at the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries are home to physical and digitized archival materials that reflect a wide range of cultures, geographical locations, time periods, and disciplines. The UF Digital Collections (UFDC) provide online access to digitized content from the collections of UF and partner institutions. To explore the physical holdings of SASC, browse the UF Archival and Manuscript Finding Aids. These provide detailed information about the contents of each collection and where they are held. Cataloged physical contents of the archival collections can also be located via the library catalog. (UFDC contents will not appear in the library catalog.)

Guides to the Special Collections at UF

One good way to identify primary sources for use in your research is to look at secondary and tertiary sources. Start with the books and articles you are using for your research, examining the footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies for cited primary sources. Then take a look at reference materials, such as compiled bibliographies or encyclopedias, for additional sources related to your topic. Once you have identified potential sources, you can use a catalog like WorldCat or ArchiveGrid to locate them.

ArchiveGrid is an index of archival content from over 1400 institutions. While the site does not offer direct access to the contents of archives, it does provide information about the archival materials and where to locate them. It is important to note that while some resources indexed in ArchiveGrid have been digitized, many have not.

When looking for primary sources outside of the UF Libraries, it is important to allow yourself plenty of extra time. Archival materials are rarely available through ILL. While some institutions are willing to scan archival documents and send them electronically, it may take some time for them to process your request. Other institutions may lack the resources to digitize documents on demand. In those cases, you will need to visit the archive, museum, or library in person to view their collections. Before planning a research visit, make sure you contact the institution to verify availability of the materials you need and learn about the institution's policies regarding visiting researchers.

For help locating primary sources outside UF or gaining access to them, request a research consultation with the History Librarian.

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