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Tools you can use research topics in literature, along with resources to help you write effectively within the discipline.

What we mean when we talk about primary sources

Often in literature classes you will be expected to find materials that are contemporary to the works you are studying. Here are suggestions and techniques to help lead you to these resources, typically called primary sources.

Timelines, Chronologies & Resource Guides

Timelines, like the ones listed here, not only provide a short-cut to knowing what was happening where at a particular time, they can help us see relationships between major world events and socio-cultural developments as they co-occur.


Newspapers are excellent primary sources, often providing firsthand accounts of important historical events and chronicling the cultural ethos of the day.

Periodicals in Print

The historic 19th and 20th century periodicals listed here may all be found in the Bound Periodicals section on the 1st floor of Memorial Library. The time range and topics-covered vary, but all provide insight into how people were living and what they were reading during the time covered.

Harper's Magazine (1866-1977) Scribner's Monthly (1871-1881)
Hours at Home (1867-1870) Life (1936-1972, 1978-2000)
International Review (1874-1883) Vogue (1960-present)
Our Day (1888-1894) Newsweek (1933-present)
Outlook (1898-1931) Good Housekeeping (1926-present)
Scribner's Magazine (1874-1937) Travel (1914-1971)


Periodicals: Electronic Archives

Online full text of periodicals, most intended for a popular audience - these are the publications regular folks were reading at the time. Some go back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but most are from the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries.

Collections of Primary Sources: Library Subscriptions

These databases will help you find primary source material in Memorial Library's collections. Examples include letters, diaries, and the full text of magazines and journals that were written during the period that interests you. Some collections are focused around a specific topic (women, the entertainment industry) or period (the sixties, the Gilded Age); others will be more comprehensive (American periodicals).

Here are examples of a few key primary source collections:

Collections of Primary Sources: Open Access

Here are a few examples of significant collections of primary source materials that you can find on the open internet, accessible to all users. To search for primary sources on your topic, add terms such as "digital collection" or the specific type of primary source to your topic search in your favorite browser. For example,

  • to find primary sources on slavery, Google slavery digital collections
  • to find letters on the women's suffrage movement, search for women's letters 19th century or letters women's suffrage
Here are some examples of the type of collections you will be able to find: