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Michigan State University

Latin American History Guide: Find Primary Sources in the Catalog

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are generally defined as first-hand accounts of events. A primary source is an original work, not derived from other sources. They may be first-person narratives such as travel accounts, diaries, letters or interviews, or official government records or court records. Visual records, such as paintings or photographs, as well as films, television programs and even advertisements are also primary sources.

Look for primary sources in the MSU Catalog by utlizing the following terms in a Keyword search.

description and travel
personal narratives

Try using the above terms combined with [name of country] and "history," but do not limit yourself to those combinations. You will find that primary sources for the history of Chile during the period of military dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s include terms such as these in the Subject headings:

Chile -- History -- 1970-1973 -- Sources.
Chile -- History -- 1973-1988 -- Sources.

Or, try using the terms from the above list combined with a topic like "revolution*," "coup," or "nationalism," and a place name, like Cuba, Southern Cone or Latin America.

Subject headings are not very intuitive, start with Keyword searches!

 To search for the writings of a known figure search the name as an Author search.

(To find information about important figures, use a Subject search.)

Travel Accounts in the Catalog

Not all first hand accounts will have subject headings that include "Sources": Try these terms:

Discovery and exploration (combine with America, or name of country or region)

Description and travel (combine with name of country or region)

Travel writing

Voyages and travels

Journeys (for individuals)

Travel (for individuals)

Travel Literature Encyclopedia

Literature of Travel and Exploration: An EncyclopediaEdited byJennifer Speake. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003. (3 v.)
[Also in print, G465 .L565 Area Studies Reference, 2 East]

"Leads readers to the individuals who wrote about their travel. . . "

Subject Librarian

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Janette Núñez
(517) 884-6379

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