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Archival Research in History: Guide

This guide contains information for TLU History students looking at archives or primary sources.


This research guide contains information for TLU History students looking at archives or primary sources. If you get stuck, please ask a librarian!

Physical vs. digital collections

Collections are groups of archival materials, usually organized around the person or organization who created or assembled them.  

To work with a physical collection, you will travel to the library or archive that houses the collection. At most archives, you will sit in a reading room and the staff will bring you the boxes or folders you ask for. To figure out which boxes or folders to ask for, you will use a finding aid, which is an inventory of the collection along with some background information. 

Digital collections are accessed online. Materials in digital collections can be "born digital" (if they are recent), or they can be digitized (scanned, photographed, and/or transcribed) versions of physical materials.

Image courtesy of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Using footnotes to find an archival collection

Above is a screenshot from a scholarly article (Orozco, Cynthia. "Regionalism, Politics, and Gender in Southwest History: The League of United Latin American Citizens' Expansion into New Mexico from Texas, 1929-1945." Western Historical Quarterly 29, no. 4 (1998): 459-483.)

- What two primary source documents does Orozco cite in footnote 20? How would you find each one?

- What sources does Orozco cite in footnote 21? 

- What sources does Orozco cite in footnote 22?  

Using TARO to find a collection (these are physical collections all over Texas)

Use TARO to search the finding aids of physical archival collections all over Texas.

How to find research sources

Primary sources in the TLU library

You can find primary sources in the TLU Library by searching the library catalog. Use Advanced Search to combine the word Texas with the subject heading Sources (use the drop-down menu to select Subject). 

Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature

The library has an index called the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. It is a physical reference source located on the main floor. You can use it to find articles by subject in the library's bound periodicals such as:

  • Time (starting in 1927)
  • Harper's Monthly Magazine (starting in 1902)
  • The Atlantic (starting in 1981)
  • Good Housekeeping (starting in 1930)

You can also use the Reader's Guide to locate periodical articles that the library does not own and request them through ILL. 

Opinion Archives

Provides full-text access (including backfiles) to American Spectator (1967-present)Commentary (1945-present)Commonweal (1924-present)Dissent (1954-present)Harper's (1850-present)La Follette's Magazine (1909-1929), Moment (1975-present)The Nation (1865-present)National Review (1955-present)The New Leader (1924-present)The New Republic (1914-present)The New Yorker (1925-present)Orion (1982-present)The Progressive (1909-present)The Washington Monthly (1969-present), and The Weekly Standard (1995-present).

American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection

Provides full text for 6863 unique titles published between 1684 and 1912. Provides rich content detailing American history and culture from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction. This database covers advertising, health, women's issues, science, the history of slavery, industry and professions, religious issues, culture and the arts, and more. Link to the collection

Finding Census records


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Amelia Koford
Library Office 115

Ask a Librarian

Reference desk

TLU librarians offer in-depth research help.


During library open hours, ask at the main desk for help finding what you need or help setting up an appointment with a librarian. 



Click on the Ask a Question tab on the right side of a library web page. It will bring you either to live chat, or to a place where you can leave a message. 


830-372-8100 (main desk)

Library directory (list of individual library staff and faculty)



--Interlibrary Loan--

Need an item that our library doesn't own? No worries, you can email the title, author and date of what you need to or fill out a form. We can get most (but not all) articles within 2 days and many books within 4-8 days. 

For more information, visit our interlibrary loan page.