History Ethical Use

Contrary to wide-spread opinion, materials found on the Internet are not free for any use. They may be at no-cost, but you must still gain permission and attribute your sources with proper citation.

The principle of "Fair Use" allows for a limited amount of use for educational (not-for-profit) purposes. Educate to protect yourself both in using others and future use of your own work.

Copyright and Fair Use

Fair Use Checklist (Columbia University)

Image Rights (Harvard University)

How I Learned to Love Fair Use (Mary Minow at Stanford explains how to determine fair use)

Creative Commons Licenses (Allows use in a variety of ways with protection for the creator)


Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (American Historical Association) applies to students as much as it applies to professionals.

National Council on Public History Bylaws and Ethics

Oral History Society: Is Your Oral History Legal and Ethical? Written for those in the United Kingdom, these guidelines still apply to US historians.

Ethical Blogging: Sourcing Images is oriented towards bloggers, but offers tips on copyright, ethical use, and sources for everyone. 


Philadelphia Historical Digital Image Library Statement of Use and Reproduction (Sample of usage permissions)

University of Chicago Author's Permissions Guidelines (publisher of the Chicago Manual of Style)

Primary Sources

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 through 1995, more recent content is found in the database collection in the L subseries.

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.

New York Times (Historical Collection) Mid-19th Century through 1980, more recent content is found in the database collection in the N subseries.

San Diego Union Newspaper Archive
Our local major newspaper from 1871-1983, more recent content is found in the database collection in the S subseries.

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:



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.

Escondido Times Note this title has changed several times over the years.
Online formats: 1893-1995

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

North County Times
Photographic negatives from 1968-2001
Currently only a collection-level record but it will be updated with an inventory to the envelope-level soon.  If you are looking for images before this update, send your requests to for assistance

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.


History on the Internet

History on the Internet

Internet Sources

Where to Look

Examples of one-stop shopping for quality resources on the web.

Search Strategies

As the internet continues to grow, the amount of useless, broken, and suspect information also grows. Here are some easy tricks to help reduce the clutter and make sure you have the best.

  • Limit your searches to domains that are likely to return better quality material.
    • EDU domains are university servers. Many universities are digitizing their special collections and offer digital repositories of their scholars' works.
    • GOV limits searches to US federal, state and local governments.
    • MIL limits to US military servers and they are very active historians.
    • ORG can be worthwhile to check out as many of these sites are museums or organizations of specialists in the area of history you are researching.
  • Consider alternative terms and spellings, keep in mind that just because you spell it one way doesn't mean it has always been spelled that way, especially in earlier times.
  • VERIFY information you find against other reputable sources--the site you are looking at should provide a bibliography to follow up on.
  • Investigate the site's author--who are they and what are they trying to accomplish?
  • Check the search engine's help pages--they have lots of focused search tips.



Thesis History

Upon your successful thesis defense and signed approval by your committee, your thesis is added to the CSUSM Scholarworks collection in perpetuity as an Electronic Theses/Dissertation (ETD)!

To get your hard work into the collection, there are guidelines and more importantly, deadlines, from your department, the CSUSM Graduate Office, and Library:

Overview of the Masters of Arts in History at CSUSM

Library ETD Submissions Guide

CSUSM Office of Graduate Studies and Research

Masters Thesis, Project or Comprehensive Exam Information and Forms

Want to see what other CSUSM History Theses look like? Search SCHOLARWORKS >Theses, Dissertations and Graduate Research > History

Tutorials & Helps

Tutorials & Helps

History Tutorials & Helps

A collection of sites to expand your skill set. 

Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer for Environmental Historians and Others
An exceptionally well-done site and not just for the historian researching environmental history!

Using Manuscripts and Archives: A Tutorial
From Yale University, so the examples are specific to Yale, but very helpful.

BBCi Ancient History
History 'lite'; useful for some topic ideas.

History Toolkit
Geared towards the general novice history researcher, an especially helpful page is "How to Read 18th Century British-American Writing".

Style Guides
Examples of how to cite common sources.

Is it Scholarly?
A guide to the features of scholarly publication from North Carolina State University.

Professional Sources

Professional Sources

History as a Profession

As a history researcher, you will be considering careers that will use your history expertise and how to 'break into' the field. Become informed as to options and develop connections to practicing professionals. One way to do this is by getting involved in professional organizations and networking. Here are some ways to do that...

Professional Organizations


Career Information/Ideas