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HIST 301: Research Methods - Kang

Getting Started

HIST 301 - Getting Started - Kang

Historical research uses a wide variety of materials and your professor expects you to use scholary and primary sources both. This site is designed to provide guidance of where to look and how to identify what you have found effectively and quickly.

From your syllabus' assignment description, you need to locate PRIMARY and SECONDARY sources for several pre-paper assignments. For the final paper you may or may not use everything you found for the earlier assignments as research and writing continually evolve throughout the research cycle.

Need ideas? What you are reading in class and your lecture topics will inspire ideas. But this is early in the semester and you have not covered all possible topics, so here are some sites to browse to get additional ideas (Note: These are not research sources, simply to stimulate ideas for topics):

Immigration Law (Cornell) at

History of U.S. Immigration Law

Immigrants Rights (ACLU)

If you are having trouble, feel free to contact me in person or virtually for additional help.

Primary Sources

Primary Sources for History

Finding primary sources will be the most challenging portion of your search process. Not only determining where to look (not everything is on the web!), you will be dealing with inconsistent language, format issues, and identifying whether what you found is actually primary or not.

Searches including the term 'primary' will usually return an unsatisfactory result set. This is because it is actually difficult to label an item as primary--what it is varies with the need of the researcher and the situation in which the item was created. This example uses articles published about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

"San Francisco Doomed" from The Oakland Tribune, April 18, 1906 is from the time of the event and would be primary source material for historical research on this event and its aftermath.

"Frisco Quake Remembered" from The Birmingham Post and dated April 19, 2006 is secondary if you are researching the 1906 quake. BUT it could be considered primary if you are researching the perception of this event after a period of time (how has memory affected history?), rather than the event itself.

A well-done site that discusses finding primary sources on the web, providing examples and a selection of sites is "Using Primary Sources on the Web". This is brought to you by the members of the the American Library Association's Reference & Users Service Association/History Section.


A search on your topic or person in the CSUSM library catalog (or other library catalogs) can reveal a number of primary sources in our collection. Keyword searches that include the following terms will identify primary materials most of the time:

  • Memoir
  • Diar* (for diary or diaries)
  • Correspondence (this is a LoC subject heading subdivision)
  • Letters
  • Personal narrative (this is a LoC subject heading subdivision)
  • Recollections
  • Reminscences
  • Journal

Some things to watch out for when searching a library catalog:

  • Searching on a personal name. If the catalog uses Library of Congress subject headings, there will be a consistent version used in the subject headings, but additional notes may be added to provide access through common alternatives, spellings, or nicknames. (e.g., Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens)
  • Subject headings will use one approved phrase for a topic, but if the subject heading has been updated (very rare), you may need to use older phrasing in your subject search. This is most likely to happen if you are using a print index (the drawers of cards) rather than an electronic index.

There are other tricks to try, contact your librarian for more help.


History Databases with Primary Sources

Accessible Archives
A good source for 19th Century American History; includes newspapers on the Civil War and African Americans.

African American Newspapers, 1827-1998
Newspapers digitized from 37 states chronicling African American experiences and influence in a variety of events from the early 19th through late 20th centuries.

American State Papers, 1789-1838
Collection of U.S. Congressional business after the Continental Congresses and before the U.S. Congressional Serial Set began.

Archive of Americana
Collections of digital documents representing American history and the growth of the nation (American State Papers, U.S. Congressional Serial Set and its maps, and a collection of Hispanic American Newspapers. Search all collections at one time.

Documenting the American South
A collection of primary source documents reflecting Southern U.S. history, literature and culture.

Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980
Spanish and English language newspapers offering news, advertisements, opinion and more from across the nation reflecting contemporary thought and activity.

Los Angeles Times (Historical)
Archived articles beginning with 1881. Issues published during the past twenty-four years are not available in this database. Check ProQuest or Factiva databases for more current material not held in this collection.

Making of America Project (Cornell University)
A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction (19th century imprints). Focuses more on journal articles.

Making of America Project (University of Michigan)
A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction (19th century imprints). Focuses more on books.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980
A record of Congressional activities reflecting public opinion, interactions with the President, treaties and much more. A companion site to this is, listing legislative activity (bills and laws) for 1973-current.

Primary Sources (on the internet)

An increasing number of sites are offering digitized images and text that are of use to the historian. Here is a sampling:

Immigrant Oral Histories

While researching immigration and immigrants to the United States, you may find it useful to examine oral histories of the immigrant experience. Listed here are some sources from a variety of universities:

Many Paths: Many Voices (University of Washington) offers collections focusing not only on racial and cultural groups, but topics such as labor and focused geographic regions. 

Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Oral Interviews features the experiences of immigrants' first contact with the United States.

Minnesota Immigrant Oral Histories of course, with an emphasis on individuals who have settled in Minnesota, but offers a wide variety of cutural groups.

Documenting the American South offers not only oral history interviews, but much more with a focus on the southern United States.

Immigration to the United States 1789-1930 (Harvard University) provides some earlier materials than many of the other sites.

This is a sample of the range of resources on the web. You can find others by searching for specific immigrant groups. Limit your searches to either universities or organizations to simplify results. Oral histories can also be found in our library catalog as well as the Circuit and World Cat.

Books & Catalog

HIST 301 - Books - Kang

The library collection offers you more than just books, although that is a large component of our collection. Any well researched project uses books to support your thinking and writing that you can discover through the Library Catalog. These works may be primary sources (as in collections of letters or documents) but will generally be secondary source material. A text that analyzes history by referring to primary sources or quotes small pieces of primary text is considered a secondary source in most cases.

To find relevant books, search by KEYWORD using terms from your class readings and notes, TITLE for specific works, or AUTHORS who have been identified as authorities on the topic. An additional search option is SUBJECT, which can be useful once you have determined the specific subject heading tags for your topic.

The easiest entry into the catalog is through a KEYWORD search. Type a word or two to describe your topic in the search box. Since keywords can have multiple definitions (and therefore meanings) in different disciplines, once you locate a useful title, examine the SUBJECTS for precise 'labels' to identify your topic. While looking at each item, note additional useful access points such as authors who are writing on your topic and the call number for browsing the stacks.

Secondary Source Example:


Primary Source Example:


Beyond the CSUSM collection and dependent on how much time you have, there are additional options. See the links on the right for more information on Circuit, WorldCat and Google Books.

Government Sources

Government Sources on Immigration

A brief listing of some of the important sources on legislation regarding immigration.

Note: Legislation is subject to judicial challenges for interpretation at various levels and can change. Be sure to verify the relevance of the legislation to your particular area of immigration study.

Modern/Current (generally the past 20 years)


State (examples)




  • Census of the United States (1790-1870, Print: Reference HA201)
  • Historical Statistics of the United States (Print: US GovDocs C3.134/2 H 62/970)
  • Selected Historical Census Data 1790-1990. Of particular note is the Census of the Foreign-born, 1850-1990.
  • Records of individuals are available through the 1940 Census at public libraries.

You will find yourself digging into a variety of different resources to find early laws so please contact me for assistance.


Articles & Databases

HIST 301 - Articles - Kang

The CSUSM research databases are sources for articles as the library catalog does not index articles in serial publications. The databases may be indexes (citations and include abstracts) or full text collections.

Articles are normally used as secondary source resources by historians, although they may include snippets of primary source texts or images. But whether the material you are examining falls into primary (first-hand, time-of-event reporting) or secondary (analysis after-the-fact) catgories depends on your research topic. Always feel free to ask for help from the librarian or your instructor in determing the category your resource falls into.

For primary source collections, please see the primary source section of this course guide.

Most Useful

America: History & Life
Abstracts of journal articles covering American & Canadian history, from pre-history to the present.

Historical Abstracts
Historical coverage of the world from 1450 to the present.

Contains (EXCEPT for the latest five years) core scholarly journals in sociology, history, economics, political science, mathematics, African-American & Asian studies, literature, humanities, music, and biological, health & general sciences.

Project Muse
Full-text coverage for hundreds of scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics

Also Useful

Academic Search Premier
This scholarly collection offers information in nearly every area of academic study including: computer sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, ethnic studies, and many more.

ACLS Humanities E-Book
Approximately 1700 full-text e-books in the humanities.

Search 2,600 scholarly Latin American journals in the sciences and humanities.

Dissertations and Theses Database
Dissertations and Theses Database includes digitized dissertations in a variety of subject areas including Art, Communications, Education, History, Linguistics, Literature, and Social Sciences.

Ethnic NewsWatch
Full-text ethnic newspapers, searchable in English or Spanish.

Handbook of Latin American Studies
An essential bibliography on Latin America consisting of works selected and annotated by scholars.

HAPI: Hispanic American Periodicals Index
Indexes journals from 1970 on providing information about Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hispanics in the United States.

Military & Government Collection
Provides full text for hundreds of military related periodicals and general interest magazines.

Provides full text access to over 1,000 journals covering all fields of science.

Women's Studies International
Includes over 204,000 records drawn from a variety of essential women's studies databases.


Newspapers as Primary Sources

Newspapers are one of the best primary source collections for many topics, but should not be considered scholarly or impartial.
These serve as a reflection of popular thinking and exhibit strong biases based on editorial policies.

This page is devoted to historical newspaper sources. All newspapers (current or historical) that are available in full text at CSUSM in either paper, microfilm or electronic format can be located by a search in the library catalog.


When you consider that newsprint has an approximate shelf-life of 50 years, that explains why so many older newspapers are found on microfilm (shelf-life of 200 years.) Knowing this doesn't make microfilm easier to use, but here at CSUSM, we have indexes to the newspapers when available and have installed microfilm reader-printers that will allow you to scan and save the page you are viewing to your H drive, dropbox, zotero, or email page scans to yourself. As we can, we are adding newspapers in digital form to our collections and those will be found in the database collections.


You can search specific titles of major newspapers from the database list (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Times (London), and the San Diego Union each have individual archival collections.)

For a more general search, type your research topic (keep it simple) in the Articles+ search box and limit the results to "newspaper articles". This is going to return articles published from a variety of time periods and publications, but you have tools to narrow your results to the left of the results list.

What newspapers do we have?

It is best to have a newspaper title, but if you do not, you can try the word newspaper with a city name, topic or ask the librarian for help!

If you are interested in certain types or geographic divisions of papers, you can do a subject search on 'newspapers' and look through the available subdivisions that reflect more focused topics.  Here are some examples of subject headings and sub-headings:

Research in other historical newspaper requires access to backfiles (the term used for older issues) and likely you need to go to a newspaper 'morgue' for hard copies. These may be at a library or a local historical society located in the area you are researching. Many newspapers are not yet indexed or digitized and will require consultation with a librarian or history expert to locate pertinent materials.

CSUSM Holdings of notable titles Print/microfilm/electronic

We have the following titles, with hard copies and microfilm on the 4th floor of the Kellogg Library. For papers without extensive archives, contact information has been posted for possible archival access.

Los Angeles Times (1881- on)
Archival Collection Online: Los Angeles Times (1881-1988)
Print: Latest in paper, older issues in the Microfilm Collection F-2
Current issues: ProQuest Direct

New York Times (1851-on)
Archival Collection Online: New York Times Historical Collection (1851-2008)
Print: Latest in paper, older issues in the Microfilm Collection F-3. NON-CSUSM users--You can use the NYT archives search to access free full text (prior to 1923) or use the citation information to access the article in our microfilm collection.
Current issues: ProQuest Direct

San Diego Union Tribune (1871-on) Note this title has changed several times over the years.
Archival Collection Online: 1872-1983  San Diego Union Newspaper Archive 
Print: Latest in paper, older issues in the Microfilm Collection F-1
Current issues: from February 2, 1992 in ProQuest Direct

See also: Lower California Frontier: Articles from the San Diego Union, 1870, (book) edited by Florence C. Shipek located in 4th floor Stacks at F1246 .S2  V.2 This provides selected articles from the Union published in 1870 prior to the microfilm series.

North County Times (San Marcos city edition)
Print: Latest 2 months in paper
Business Office: 207 Pennsylvania Ave. Escondido, CA 92025    (760) 745-6611  

San Diego Voice and Viewpoint 
Print: Latest 2 months in paper
Business Office: 1729 N. Euclid Ave. San Diego, CA 92105   (619) 266-2233  

Wall Street Journal (1980-on)
Latest in paper, older issues in the Microfilm Collection F-4
Current issues: from 1984-on in ProQuest Direct

Irish Times
Microfilm Collection F-144 for years 1916-1988 (some gaps)
1995-on in ProQuest Direct or Factiva

Times (London)
Archival Collection Online: Times (London) digital archive 1785-1985

Collections (multiple titles in one resource)

Early American Newspapers
Microfilm Collection F-47

America's Historical Newspapers, (1690-1998

Ethnic NewsWatch 1992-current

America's Historical Newspapers (includes subsets that may be searched individually)

Online with free full text

Older California newspapers are available in the  California Digital Newspaper Collection. Titles include The Californian (first California newspaper in 1846) and regional titles. 

Chronicling America at the Library of Congress is the clearing house for the National Digital Newspaper Program. The California Digital Newspaper Project is a part of this nation-wide effort.

Penn State's Historical Newspapers Online is a very comprehensive and detailed listing of full-text historical US newspapers.

News Archives for US papers is an assortment of papers and sources for browsing

Elephind provides a list of a number of large free access digitized newspaper collections.

Foreign Newspaper Archives (examples)

Mexico Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de Mexico 1722-2006 (note, not all are available open access and all materials are in Spanish)

Ireland Belfast Newsletter Index 1737-1800 An index to the early years of the oldest continually-published English-language newspaper.

Canada Saskatchewan News Index 1884-2000 Index to newspapers from the region. A limited number of full-text articles are also available.

Australia TROVE: Digitised Newspapers and More

Focused Interest Archives (examples)

Union List of Digitized Jewish Historic Newspapers, Periodical and E-journals 1811-2018 with the bulk of titles early 20th Century,  many titles are in German or other non-English languages and some titles listed are accessed only through subscription.

Catholic News Archive 1831-1978

Hoji Shinbun Digital Collection -- Japanese Diaspora Initiative 1891-1938, titles in English and Japanese, published in Hawai'i and the Americas. 

Full Text Print (Local availability)


The major universities in San Diego County all have historical newspaper collections. Titles and date ranges can be browsed through their online catalogs or the joint catalog system, CIRCUIT.

Public Libraries

San Diego County Library System AND San Diego Public Library have historical newspaper collections. Titles and date ranges can be browsed through their online catalogs or the joint catalog system, CIRCUIT.

Check city libraries (Carlsbad, Oceanside, etc.) as they are not members of the county or SD Public system, so have separate online catalogs.

Historical Societies

San Diego History Center has a list of titles with larger runs. An article from the Journal of San Diego History at discusses historical newspapers and their use.



Indexes do not provide full-text to the articles, but act as a directory to tell you when an article was written addressing your research topic. Even weekly newspapers have so many different articles is one issue and cover so many topics in one issue, it is difficult to locate the desired information unless you have a specific citation. Indexes provide a faster means to your information goal as opposed to guessing at a date and browsing the issues.

Some papers have print or digital indexes. Please refer to the guide for Newspapers for more information or consult the librarian.


Citing Sources

Chicago Citation Style

Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide

Library Copies (Z253 .U69) (kept at Permanent Reserves) We now have the Manual online as well through the library catalog.

What's New in the 17th Edition

The Chicago Manual of Style is the stylistic and citator preference for most history researchers, but always check with your professor before proceeding on both citation style and which system. The Notes-Bibliography system is generally preferred in history publications, but there is also an Author-Date system. These systems use different formatting, so be sure which your professor prefers.

IMPORTANT! Recently, the University of Chicago Press issued a new edition for this style. Check your resources such as automated citation generators to make sure you are being given the latest information based on the 17th edition as not all sites have updated yet.

Chicago may be referred to as Turabian, after Kate Turabian, who wrote a manual for students for research, writing and citing sources based on the Chicago citation style. The current version is titled A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. The CSUSM library keeps a copy at the Research Help Desk at LB2369 .T8 2007 and a copy on permanent Reserves (Checkout Desk.)

Some additional helpful web sites:

Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition (OWL at Purdue)

Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide for Government Documents From Bowdoin College, this guide uses the 15th edition as the 17th is not as comprehensive on government citations.

Legal Citations Using Chicago

For a summary of the Chicago style of citation for legal citations, please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style 17th ed. Chapter 14, sections 269-280 for legal materials and sections 281-292 for US Government pubiications.

There are a number of in depth publications on legal citations.

  • Cornell University's "Introduction to Basic Legal Citation" is freely available on the internet.
  • "The Blue Book" addresses this type of citation in great depth and is considered the authority. We have the 2010 edition.
  • "The Maroon Book" by  the students at the University of Chicago Law School challenges the Blue Book rules and is not considered authoritative.

Keep in mind there are specific rules for providing the legislative or case number and you will need to use the published or 'formal' title, although there may be more popular common references.

The Library of Congress has provided a simple site with examples for referencing US Congressional documents "Citation Guide".

Need Help?

Judith A. Downie

Special Collections and History Librarian
Judith A. Downie
760-750-4374 OR 760-750-4312 (Archives)
Office Location: 
Office Hours: 
By Appointment