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Medieval History: Primary Sources in Books

Resources for researching history from 400 to 1500.

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.

In one search box, enter some keywords on your topic (French Resistance). In another search box, use an official heading related to your primary sources (Correspondence). You may have to try a few different ones.

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, World War II can be described using the following terms:

  • European War, 1939-1945
  • Second World War
  • World War Two
  • World War 2

You could search the library catalog for all those keywords. Or, use one subject heading to find all of the library's materials about World War II:
World War, 1939-1945

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.