The Interplay of Primary and Secondary Sources

  • If you're searching for primary sources on a topic, one good place to look is a secondary source that cites original texts, manuscripts, and archives.
  • Conversely, published editions of primary sources will often cite secondary sources for added context, commentary, and history.

A good starting point for finding both primary and secondary sources is a reference work or bibliography.The electronic collection Oxford Reference Online lets you search across hundreds of reliable reference sources.

You can also find reference works in HOLLIS by combining your subject with keywords like Encyclopedia, Guide, Dictionary, Handbook, Companion, or Introduction.

  • Search HOLLIS (especially using subject headings) and online databases (see the examples in this guide).

A Few Extra Tips

► To find subject headings for browsing, bring up the HOLLIS record for a book you already know about; or do a keyword search for your topic, such as Chicago street art or Jewish American identity or Middle Eastern Americans. (This is how I found the subject headings suggested on the following pages.)

► When you're typing a subject heading into HOLLIS, you don't need to type the dashes: Street Art Illinois Chicago Guidebooks.

► Use the Advanced Search in HOLLIS to combine a subject heading with other keywords, e.g.

  • Subject Middle Eastern Americans (or Iranian Americans, etc.) + Keyword culture
  • Subject Street art + Keyword Chicago
  • Subject Jews United States + Keyword identity

► If the HOLLIS record for a book doesn't tell you enough about its contents, try searching for the book in Google Books. Even if the entire text is not available, you can often get a substantial preview, and search by keyword to see if the book mentions a particular topic.

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Steve Kuehler