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History senior thesis survival guide

I already have a specific topic

Search for primary sources in the Main Catalog

  • To find primary sources in the library catalog use the Advanced or Guided Search form to search for keywords or subject headings plus terms like:
    • sources
    • diaries
    • correspondence
    • personal narrative

    Note: for many topics, there are highly specific subject headings like:

    • France--History--Revolution, 1789-1799--Sources.
    • Ireland--History--Sources.
    • United States--Foreign relations--Cuba--Sources.
    • Civil rights movements--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • To find the papers of an individual, do an Author search, e.g. jackson, andrew
  • To find the records of an organization or government body, do an Author search, e.g. United States. Dept. of State
  • To find works published in a particular time and place, try limiting your search by date, language, or location

I have a general area of interest

  • Consult online guides to primary sources arranged by subject
  • For microform collections, try browsing through the printed guides shelved in Microforms Services on C-floor (all these guides have call numbers that start "FilmB")
  • Consider using original primary source collections at Princeton (see below)
  • Still need help? Consult the history librarian or another of the library's subject specialists.

Special Collections at Princeton

The Princeton University Library contains incredible troves of primary sources, from original diaries and letters to posters and photographs to declassified government documents. Many are held by the Special Collections department, but others are part of the general collections in Firestone or elsewhere. 

Princeton’s Mudd Manuscript Library houses two collections of primary sources that are often used in writing senior theses in history. The first is the University Archives, which documents the history of Princeton University. The second is the Public Policy Papers collection, which include important collections representing individuals and organizations in the areas of 20th-century American foreign policy, jurisprudence, journalism, public policy formation, and international development. See for more information or email for an appointment.

The Special Collections department on Firestone houses a rich variety of books, manuscripts, graphic arts, coins, and other artifacts. The collections are particularly rich for American history, but cover many other times and places. See for more information or email for an appointment.

Some of our other non-rare "special collections":