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United States History: Primary Sources in Books

Resources for researching US history at PSU Library.

Using Subject Headings to Find Books

PSU Library has a large collection of reprinted or microfilmed primary source materials, including the collected writings of historical figures, government documents, diaries, collections of speeches, etc. The best way to find primary sources in the library catalog is with subject headings. You may have to try several searches, but one strategy is to combine a keyword for your topic with a subject heading for a material type (see list at right).

Use the advanced search function in the Portland State Library Catalog

advanced search


Subject Headings in the PSU Library Catalog

Find books on your topic by using a keyword search to find relevant subject headings. For example, search the keyword phrase, leadership AND diversity, in the PSU Library catalog. By clicking on the title of the first book, Diversity and Leadership, the subject headings are shown in the record for the book.

Subject headings

Books with Primary Sources

Primary sources in books can seem like secondary sources, especially based on the publication date. The books listed here are examples of primary sources re-printed or re-published in later volumes. 

What is a subject heading?

Subject headings are a formalized way of of searching library catalogs. The right subect heading can help you get to information more quickly.

For example, the American Revolutionary War can be described using the following terms:

  • American Revolution
  • American Revolutionary War
  • War of the American Revolution
  • American War of Independence
  • War of American Independence
  • War of Independence

You could search the library catalog for all those keywords. Or, use one subject heading to find all of the library's materials about the the American Revolutionary War:
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783

Searching for primary source materials by author

Materials written by a person (or an organization) are considered primary sources for research on that person. Search the catalog for a historical person's name, and then click on their name to find everything they have written.

Who determines subject headings? The Library of Congress. Copies of the complete set of the Library of Congress Subject Headings are available at the Reference Desk.