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HISTORY 600: America and China (Fall 2020) : Primary Sources in English

Examples of English-language primary sources

General search hints

  • Most English-language primary sources will be from a U.S., British, or other English-speaking country's perspective.
  • Most databases and catalogs have options for limiting searches or results by date. Limiting by date can make a results list in a database much more relevant and manageable. It is less helpful in a library catalog because some primary sources are published or reprinted years after the event.
  • Consider using synonyms in your searches. It's especially important for assignments in this course because...
    • Language changes over time. Primary sources will use the terms used at the time the sources were created.
    • People from different cultures will use different terms, or spellings, to refer to the same things.
      • Example: British spelling: "defence"   American spelling: "defense"
    • Transliteration systems "are used to convert words from one writing system to another. Words written in non-Roman writing systems (e.g., Arabic, Russian, [Chinese]), may be transliterated into Roman letters in various ways. This can create problems when searching in a library catalog or database. Try variations to get good results." (Patricia Hardesty, Africa, Asia, Middle East Subject Guide, James Madison University Libraries, 2015.)
  • When using synonyms in a search, connect each synonym with the word OR and group the synonyms in parentheses.
    • Example: (Nanking OR Nanjing)

About "databases," the containers for many primary sources

Many of the primary sources we recommend for this course are in library "databases."  Think of library databases as containers, or streaming channels, for full-text articles, as well as some electronic books, digital images and movies, and digital versions of historical documents.  Some documents will be in more than one database; some will only be in one database.


Accessing databases

Many of these databases are ones that the UW-Madison Libraries pay a subscription fee to have access to (like a streaming service).  To access these databases, you have to use a link from a UW-Madison Libraries page, like the Libraries home page, or a course guide like this one.  When you click a link to access a database, you may be asked to log in with your UW-Madison netID and password.

When you click on a database name in this course guide, we'll usually take you to a page describing the database. Click on "Access database" in the upper right corner of that page to get into the database itself.

Subject Librarian

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Beth Harper
Memorial Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Subject Librarian

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Anlin Yang
412E Memorial Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison
728 State St.
Madison, WI 53706
Subjects: East Asia

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