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University of Wollongong Australia

Historical Primary Sources: Getting Started

Help finding historical primary sources at UOW and elsewhere.

Use a Discovery Search Engine

Try Trove for finding books, articles and images from many libraries and other institutions across Australia. Some items are freely available online.

Search results will often include both current and historical material and a range of both secondary and primary sources.

Use Trove Advanced Search to combine more than one keyword or phrase or limit to specific year range. When viewing results use the Decade facet to further narrow by publication date/year (eg. 1950-1959)

First Ask Yourself ...

What do you already know about your topic? (e.g. are you looking at a particular historical event, person, organisation, movement etc.?)

Look for secondary sources
To find ... Use ...

Background information, key dates, professions, locations, names of signficant people, institutions

  • Dictionaries and/or Encyclopedias 

In depth information, further references & clues to other information

  • Books

Discussion of the significance of a person, organisation/institution, theme/movement or event 

  • Journal articles

Online summaries giving overviews, facts and further references

  • Authoritative websites

 

Then Ask Yourself ...

What do you know about the types of records written or produced at that time about events and issues relating to your topic?

Look for PRIMARY SOURCES

To find out ... Look for ...

What was life/society like at that time?

  • Yearbooks
  • Documentary history books

What were the experiences, beliefs or priorities of relevant individuals, groups or organisations?

  • Biographies & autobiographies
  • Interviews, letters, diaries
  • Reports & journals for specific occupations or professions

What was the government attitude? What was the government of the day saying?

  • Government reports, debates & announcements

How many were involved in or affected by this issue/event? 

  • Statistical yearbooks & reports

What were people being told?

  • Newspaper articles

What did the person or institution look like?

  • Photographs & illustrations

Make Your Search Time Efficient

Download these to help you organise your notes on what types of primary sources you are looking for AND how/where you're searching for them.

Finding Primary Sources/Archives Six Step Search Strategy Worksheet [pdf]

Keywords Worksheet (tips for History topics) [pdf]

Important Search Tips for Trove

Use Trove Advanced Search to combine more than one keyword or phrase or limit to specific year range. When viewing results use the Decade facet to further narrow by publication date/year (eg. 1950-1959)

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