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HIS 100: Skills and Methods

Class Activity 2: Navigating a Primary Source Database

Homework: Between now and the next class pick one primary source to bring to our meeting on July 2nd. 

Before we begin, make sure to login appropriately:

Information about Primary Sources: types, collections, & databases

Familiarize yourselves with a few useful concepts:

Primary Source Types - Refer to guide on Distinguishing Between Popular and Scholarly Journals (the link is below) for an explanation. Your assignment specified documents representing different perspectives, including diaries, pamphlets, tax lists, etc. 

Collections - In the field of archives, primary documents are grouped together into unique collections. Collections can be dedicated to individuals, organizations, publications, and so on. Collections reside in archives centers, for example UCSC Library has its own space: Special Collections & Archives. Additionally, some collections might be re-printed in their entirely in book collections or microforms.

Digital Primary Source Collections/Databases - The digitization of collections has been a boon for researchers. Publishers/vendors bring together collections into database, which they then sell to libraries, for campus users to be able to search. There are Open Access databases as well.

Guiding questions when selecting a database to search:

  • Is the type of document you need included?
  • Is your topic's time period covered by the database/by the collections included?
  • Are the collections included/is the subject matter of the databases relevant to your research?
  • What are the perspectives covered?  

Discover UCSC Library's primary source databases on your own by using the Library's A-Z Database page and the Databases Type filter to see a list. 

Analyze the primary sources you find with this handy worksheet:

Selected Databases containing Primary Sources