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Library Research Guides

Primary Sources in International Studies

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

Example: Political Poster

Anti-imperialist poster from Nicaragua.

U-M Library Digital Collections. Political Posters, Labadie Collection, University of Michigan.

Guides: Data & Statistics

Guide: News Articles


Roll of microfilm.

Ianare, "Positive roll film" June 15, 2007 via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution.

Explore Primary Source Databases

These are just a few of the many databases of primary sources to which the library grants you access.

Use Search Tools to look for databases that relate more specifically to your needs. Try searching for very general terms relating to your topic, such as the area, time period, or group that interests you.

Look for Archives

When researching primary sources, the very best thing you can do is to explore those sources in person. Archives let researchers get up close and personal with all manner of primary sources – books, photographs, original correspondence, artwork, and more.

The library has a rich collection of primary sources from all over the world – talk to a librarian if you want to get your hands on a primary source related to your research.


Many primary sources (especially older newspapers and journals, but also collections of letters and other primary sources) are often digitized as

  • microfilm (a reel of microphotographs on film - see photo at left)
  • or microfiche (microphotographs on photographic film cards).

Collectively they are known as microform

You can use the library's collection or make interlibrary loan requests for ones that are not owned by the library.

The library has the special equipment needed to read and scan microform (see photo below) in Hatcher 203 North, in the Serials and Microforms Office.

Librarians are happy to help students learn how to use content on microform in their research!

Microfilm Reader

Microfilm reader attached to desktop computer.

The microfilm readers in the Serials and Microform Office at Hatcher Graduate Library let you read content on microfilm and save the pages that interest you as a PDF for later use.

Mine Your Secondary Sources

Backtrack from your secondary sources to find primary sources: look at what is being cited (in the footnotes, in the bibliography...) and pick out primary sources that might be useful to you.

You can then look them up in the library catalog, request them via interlibrary loan, or talk to a librarian about how to find them.

Sources in Books

A book is simply a format: both primary and secondary sources can be found in books. For example, letters, speeches, and interviews – all types of primary sources – can often be found in books.

If you are looking for primary sources by a historical figure of note, try searching their name as "author" in a catalog: this will turn up not only works that they have written, but also collections of interviews, speeches, and the like that have been published in book form.