Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources: News

This guide provides information about the different types of primary source documents.

Newspapers as Primary Sources

Newspapers are a primary source providing a first rough draft of events. Since most newspapers are local in scope, there is good coverage of local issues. Newspapers also provide a good feel for the time period.

Most older newspapers do not include indexing. Usually you will need to browse through issues of a newspaper to discover its content.

Strategies for Searching FullText Newspaper Databases

When searching any fulltext database such as the New York Times you may find the following strategies useful to narrow your search down to more relevant items.

  • When available use the Advanced Search option -- this gives you the flexibility of doing more complex searches
  • If you get too many results see if there is a way to search just the headline of an article
  • If available limit your search by publication type such as articles, editorials, advertisements
  • Limit your search by publication year
  • Be aware of changes in language and spelling over time.  For example articles written in 1965 will use USSR or Soviet Union rather than Russia; Negro rather than African American; articles from 1800 might use Hayti rather than Haiti.

Digitized Historic Newspapers

This page includes links to freely available digitized historic Newspapers.

Using the Google News Archive

Google News has a newspaper archive search which provides access to a number of past issues of newspapers.  Unfortunately Google does not provide a list of these newspapers.  The Google News Archive Search finds articles from proprietary newspapers (where you have to pay to see the article) and to free archives of newspapers.  To search the Google News Archive use the following search example.  You can limit your search by date, source (name of the newspaper, e.g., Arkansas Democrat-Gazette), and if you want just free material.