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ETH STD 302: Professional Orientation Fall 2017: Primary Sources

Instructor: Choy

Finding Archival Collections

Also try:

  • finding references in secondary sources
  • searching OskiCat and limiting to "archival materials" (in the "entire collection" menu)

The Bancroft Library - Overview

The Bancroft Library is one of the treasures of the campus, and one of the world's great libraries for the history of Bancroft Library interiorthe American West.  Hours  and  floor plan showing location (2nd floor Doe Library)

Some Bancroft materials are available online via Calisphere, which includes primary sources  from many California libraries and museums.

How to Use the Bancroft Library

Before you go:

1.  Be prepared! Read secondary sources and know something about your topic.

2.  You must register with the Aeon software to use the Bancroft Library.  You may register online in advance.

2.  Search OskiCat  You can limit your OskiCat search to find materials at the Bancroft Library, instead of all campus libraries (choose "Bancroft Library" from the pulldown menu that says "Entire Collection."). Remember that there are primary sources in many other campus libraries as well.  Ask for assistance from a reference librarian.

Once you have found an item you need, click on the BANCROFT REQUEST link to request the item through Aeon.

Important:  if the item is in storage ("NRLF") and owned by The Bancroft Library, do not use the Request button in OskiCat.  Instead, request these materials through Aeon  AT LEAST 72 hours in advance (they prefer a week.)

If the OskiCat record mentions a "finding aid" (an index) to a manuscript collection, you should use it to help you find what you need in the collection.  If the finding aid is online there will be a link from the OskiCat record, or you can search the Online Archive of California to find it. The finding aids that are not online are near the Registration desk at the Bancroft Library.

3. Plan your visit;  you will need to bring current government-issued ID,  call numbers, titles, etc. with you. You may find it convenient to bring a quarter for the lockers, and a digital camera/cameraphone.  Read the Conditions of Use to learn what you can and cannot bring into the Bancroft Library.

4. You will need to use the Aeon system to request photocopies or scans, request permission to publish materials, etc.

5. While onsite, make requests to see items before 4:30 pm.

6.  Ask for assistance at The Bancroft Library's reference desk, or request assistance by email.

Primary Sources - Government Information, Census and Polls

Records of government agencies

  • Search the library catalogs:   OskiCat or MELVYL  (about) by the name of the government agency as organizational author

Congressional information

Lexis-Nexis Congressional includes:

  • Bills and Laws 1789-present
  • Congressional hearings: 1824-present
  • Committee Prints:
  • 1817 - present
  • CRS Reports (good places to start): 1916 - present
  • Hearings 1817-present
  • House & Senate reports and documents: 1817 - present
  • Legislative Histories 1969-present
  • Serial Set 1789-present, including maps
  • Congressional Record and its predecessors: 1789-2001

United States Census

Public Opinion Polls

Supreme Court cases

Opinions:     by year


Making of Modern Law: US Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978

A fully searchable collection of briefs and other documents related to cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It contains over 150,000 cases and 350,000 documents.  Search results are linked to the actual full-text PDF documents.

Lexis-Nexis Academic (Supreme Court briefs 1936 - onwards).

click on Advanced Options; in the window that appears, next to Source, enter    U.S. Supreme Court Case Briefs; accept the suggested text; click on Apply

back at the search screen, enter your additional search terms; your search will be limited to Supreme Court briefs.

 Oral arguments:

    • Oyez Project:  Audio recordings of oral arguments before Supreme Court 1968 - 2010
      • selective before 1968 and after 2010
      • Briefs and opinions also selectively available.
    • Supreme Court of the US official web site:  transcripts of oral arguments 2000 - present
      • audio of oral arguments 2010 - present

Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources can be found in a variety of library tools:

For specific search strategies, see the Library's Guide to Finding Historical Primary Sources

Learn more about your topic in advance:

  • names of relevant individuals and organizations
  • dates of events
  • places
  • what terminology was used at the time by participants and observers? (ex:  negro or colored instead of african american)

Primary Source Databases - Selected

For a complete list, start with the Library home > Electronic Resources > Electronic Resources, Types A-Z > Archival Collections and Primary Sources

Searching OskiCat for Primary Sources

Search OskiCat for primary sources using keywords and adding terms that denote primary sources, such as:

-personal narratives


puerto rican* interviews
african american soldiers personal narratives
irish american* newspapers

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