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English Research: Primary & Secondary Literature

Starting Points: Databases

Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are materials that offer original data or perspectives on a particular time or place. They are usually written close to the period in question, but can sometimes be retrospective reflections by firsthand witnesses. Examples include: Diaries, Novels, Music, Film, Newspaper Articles, Artworks, Autobiographies, Government Records, Speeches, Correspondence, Photographs, and more.

How do I find them?

  • Use keywords like "sources" or the type of primary source you're looking for
    • For instance "American History Sources" or "African American Women Diaries, 20th Century"
  • Look in the subject headings for words like "autobiography," "correspondence," "congresses," or "personal narratives"
  • Filter by content type such as "Newspaper Article," "Magazine Article," "Pamphlet," or "Government Document"

Browsing the Stacks

Books and journals assigned call numbers beginning with "P" deal with topics in Language and Literature. You can browse the stacks or search by call number in the catalog from the Number Advanced Search.

A screenshot of the UCCS library advanced search with the number option selected on the lefthand menu.

Subclass PJ: Oriental Languages and Literatures

Note: covers the ancient and modern Middle East

Subclass PK: Indo-Iranian Languages and Literatures

Subclass PL: Languages and Literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, and Oceania

Subclass PN: General Literature

Subclass PQ: French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese Literature

Subclass PR: English Literature

Subclass PS: American Literature

Subclass PT: German, Dutch, Flemish (since 1830), Afrikaans, Scandinavian, Old Norse (Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian), Modern Icelandic, Faroese, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Literature

Subclass PZ: Fiction and juvenile belles lettres

Search Tips

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators link your keywords together to get better results. The operators are AND, OR, and NOT.


Returns results with all of the terms included. Use "AND" for concepts that all need to be present. For example: "Science Fiction" AND "ecology"


Returns results with one of the terms included. Use "OR" to link synonyms or similar keywords to expand your results. For example: "Science Fiction" AND ("Ecology" OR "environmental studies")


Excludes terms from your results. Use "NOT" to eliminate things that might be related to your topic but which you aren't interested in. For example: "Science Fiction" AND ("Ecology" OR "environmental studies") NOT "film"

Punctuation & Symbols

"Quotation Marks"

Quotation marks tell search tools that you want your results to have your terms together and in that order. For example: searching science fiction would return results that have "science" and "fiction" anywhere in any order, but searching "science fiction" would return results that have the exact phrase "science fiction" somewhere within.


Parentheses tell search tools what order to read your query in. For example, in our search "Science Fiction" AND ("Ecology" OR "environmental studies") the parentheses indicate that the items we want to be connected by the OR are ecology and environmental studies. Without them, search tools read left to right and perform the operations in whatever order they appear.


Asterisks stand in for multiple characters. This is called truncation For example, environm* will yeild environment, environmentalism, environmental...

Pro Tip: Look for a menu called "help" or "search tips" for database-specific syntax and tips. 

Subject Librarian

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Larry Eames
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EPC 218 - Kraemer Family Library