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Finding Your Primary Source

Try looking in LibrarySearch (the large search box on the MRU Library homepage) to see if MRU owns it as an ebook:

  • Search for the book title from which your primary source was excerpted; if we own many versions of a text, sometimes it helps to add the publisher or translator's name to your search. 

  • ​If that version is unavailable, search for the specific primary source by it's title, and include the author's name, 
    e.g. Peloponnesian War Thucydides . 
    You may need to find a larger collection of the author's work, or similar works from that time period, and look at the chapter headings or book itself to see if your source is included.
  • Look for books in the result list (rather than journal articles or reference articles).
  • Look for results that show as being BY your author and translator (e.g. it should say "by Herodotus").  Use the advanced search screen to do an author search for your author's name.
  • Experiment with different spellings of your primary source and author
    • e.g. Plato's Apology vs. Plato's Apologie

If you can't find a version of your primary source in the form of a book, try looking in these reputable online collections:

  • Ancient History Sourcebook: Primary sources including Ancient Greek and Hellenic texts. Hosted by Fordham University. Search by primary source title or a portion of the title.
  • Internet Archive: A very large collection of historical documents from many eras; mostly books, but includes other types of documents. Start by searching by title and translator or editor of the book cited in your textbook. If you don't find that version, search by the primary source title itself, along with the author's name, to find an alternate edition.
  • Perseus Collection, Greek and Roman Materials: Extensive collection of Greek texts with many English translations; hosted by Tufts University.
  • Project Gutenberg: A large collection of reliable open source ebooks. Follow the advice for the Internet Archive.

Assess carefully the sources you find. You should be able to easily determine who made the source available, and when and where the source was originally published or created. Look for sources being offered by credible organizations like libraries, universities, museums and scholarly societies.

Secondary Sources: Background Sources/Scholarly Encyclopedias

START YOUR SOURCE ANALYSIS HEREwith background information. For basic biographical details and information about the historical context of an author or an event, the best place to look is in a scholarly encyclopedia. Most primary source analyses should start with encyclopedia research.

  • See the Background Sources tab of this guide for electronic historical encyclopedias, including Oxford Reference: Classical Studies.
  • Or search for your author in LibrarySearch, and limit using the filter Resource Type to Reference entries.

Secondary Sources: Books and Journal Articles

After encyclopedias/background sources, your next move to should be to look at books about your author, text and historical time period. Books are a good next step because they are likely to offer broad context on a topic.

  • Use LibrarySearch (the Books, articles and more search box) on the MRU Library homepage. 
  • Limit to only books by selecting Resource Type > Books using the right-side panel.
  • Keep in mind that often a primary text (as in, a book that includes the text of the Plato's Apology itself) will often also include an introduction that explains the importance of the text and its historical context, or information about the author, so don't overlook those kinds of books.
  • Use the advanced search screen to do a subject search for your author's name, or possibly for your primary source title. This will turn up books ABOUT Homer, for example, or books ABOUT the Iliad.
  • Also try using keywords that describe the historical time period, genre or larger issues addressed in the primary source. Make note of new terms as you go
              - medicine greece (ancient OR classical)
      - greek lyric poet*
      - greece "intellectual life"


If you have information gaps to fill, expand your search to include journal articles in LibrarySearch, OR visit the Articles tab of this guide and try some of the following journal article databases.

  • Academic Search Complete
  • Historical Abstracts
  • Project Muse: limit to research area - History

Note that journal articles tend to be more focused on very specific details of a topic, so it helps to have a general understanding of the topic before you look for journal articles.

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Alice Swabey
Drop-in help Mondays 12-2 at the Library Service Desk. Appointments available via Google Meet or in-person. Email help is also available.