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History and Political Science Research Guide: Primary Sources

A research guide to access hard-copy and online resources. "We are all inseparable from our times. If you don't know history, it is as if you were born yesterday." Howard Zinn, Historian

Using Online Resources

When using information found online, always evaluate the source for quality and trustworthiness. See the Evaluating Websites box on the bottom right of this page for a list of criteria to use to determine if a website is appropriate for academic research. The websites listed below on the left provide digitized copies of primary sources or link to other sites that provide primary sources. If you have any questions or would like to see a website added, contact librarian Robin Lang.

Primary Sources Online: Open Access

Library Databases with Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources through Library Databases

(Note: You will be prompted to enter your PLNU username and password.)

Secondary Sources: See the tab to the left called Articles and Databases for a list of history databases. These databases are good places to search for secondary sources on your topic.

Primary Sources: When using the three EBSCO databases below, in Advanced Search, limit the Publication Type to Primary Source:

Tertiary Sources: Online and Print Encyclopedias

Ryan Library provides hundreds of print encyclopedias in the Reference Area. And we provide access to over 790 reference books simultaneously through Credo Reference database. Encyclopedias are helpful resources to find background information on your topic.

Citing Primary Sources in MLA

Visit the OWL Purdue website for information on:

If an example of your specific type of source is not available, you may have to piece together several examples, such as an example of a translated book with an example of a text found on a website. Visit a librarian at the Research Help Desk for further assistance.

Visit the Library's Citation Help page for more example citations.

Evaluating Websites

Consider Quality...

Ask a librarian at the Research Help Desk if you're unsure if a website is trustworthy or not.


Does the site/document have an author? What are the author's credentials? Why should you trust this author as an expert? Take care to not confuse the author with the translator or digitizer.


Who sponsors or publishes the source? Who is responsible for maintaining the website? (Hint: Look for the copyright symbol often found at the bottom of the webpage or in the About Us section.) What evidence demonstrates that the sponsor/publisher is credible? What purpose/perspective does the sponsor seem to promote?

Affiliation with a university, a non-profit, or a professional association are often indicators of truthworthiness.


How recently was the information posted or modified? Could it be outdated or obsolete?


How do you know that the information itself is trustworthy? Are there links to other sites/sources to support factual claims? Does the source include references to supporting material and further research?