Finding Primary Sources: Searching Online
A number of print and online access tools exist to assist researchers in searching for primary source materials that are located on the University of Maryland, College Park, campus. Please note that no one source completely describes our holdings and that it may be necessary to search many different places.
- Finding aids to archival and manuscript collections at the University of Maryland
- Subject guides to archival and manuscript collections at the University of Maryland
A resource for searching all collections at the University of Maryland Libraries, especially individual books and journal titles. View our video tutorial for more information on how to search for primary sources using the University of Maryland's online catalog.
Digitized materials from the University of Maryland's special collections, including over 1500 historic images from the University of Maryland, several hundred historic postcards, and the Prange Digital Children's Book Collection.
WorldCatUM is a global database that allows you to see not only University of Maryland materials, but also items located at libraries around the world. The search box below will search WorldCatUM.
Google and Other Search Engines
Using the tips below can lead to successful primary source searches on the open web.
- Place phrases in "quotes." This is particularly helpful when searching for proper names.
- Use special collections-specific terms such as "records," "archives," "papers," and "manuscripts" to locate relevant primary source material.
- Google excludes common words and characters as well as single digits and letters. If these are important to your search place a "+" in front of the word or number. Be sure to include a space before the plus sign.
- You can exclude irrelevant terms from your search by placing a "-" in front of words related to the meaning you want to avoid. Be sure to include a space before the minus sign.
You are looking for first-hand accounts of soldiers in Maryland during the American Civil War. You type civil war soldiers maryland into Google and receive 10 million hits. By typing "civil war" soldiers Maryland +diaries the number of hits is reduced to a mere 680,000, with the top results linking to digital versions of Civil War diaries.
While the number of hits using the "plus" operator is significantly reduced, this is also a good example of how too many hits may not be useful. In this case, it might be more productive to look at several books about the Civil War and see which primary sources the authors used.
Popular is not always better. If you search Google and rely only on the first page of results, chances are that others will be using the same primary sources. Part of the joy of research is discovery. Spending the extra time to look at several pages of search results, or to combine research methods will provide a richer pool of resources from which you can draw conclusions!