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Library Research Guides

Primary Sources in International Studies

Find and use primary sources in research conducted by international studies students.

Search Mirlyn

Use subject headings to zero in on the materials most relevant to your topic.

Click the "Get this" button on an item's catalog page to have it delivered to the campus library building of your choice. If the item is unavailable, you can use the button to request the item from an alternate source.

Search Other Catalogs & Request Materials

Not finding what you need at the University of Michigan library? Use subject headings to search these other catalogs for material relevant to your topic!

Once you have found something that interests you, use the information in the item's catalog record to request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Depending on the item, this may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks: leave yourself plenty of time by starting your search early.

Use Subject Headings

Search for primary sources more efficiently by using subject headings instead of keywords.

  • Subject headings are a Library of Congress system used to "tag" articles, books, and more based on their topics.
  • Unlike regular search keywords, subject headings are standardized, which means that using them will produce a more powerful search that turns up fewer irrelevant results.
Example: "Drug traffic" is a subject heading that encompasses various synonyms, such as "Drug dealing," "Drug smuggling," "Illicit drug trade," or "Narcotic trafficking."


Check out this video for more information on how to use them to make your searches more effective!

"Subject Headings" (video by Western University).

You can enter search terms of your own on the Library of Congress Subject Headings Search page to find the corresponding subject headings.

You can also backtrack to find subject headings: look at the subject headings associated with a given item in a catalog or article in a database and use them as search terms to find sources that fall under the same subject.

Different databases have different approaches towards subject headings, so you may need to adjust your approach depending on where you are conducting your search.

Primary Source Subject Headings

To find primary sources specifically, couple the topic of your subject heading with relevant subheadings that relate to the historical time period, place of origin, and item format of the materials that interest you.

These "complex subjects" (containing more than one idea) have their own particular notation.

Example: if you are looking for letters written by Russian revolutionaries, you might try searching for "Revolutionaries--Russia--Correspondence" for more targeted results.