Finding Materials

Getting Started:

Locate and browse a few KEY WORKS.

Find a few key works on your subject by asking your advisor, a librarian, or checking a scholarly encyclopedia that identifies key works for each entry. A key work may be a recent analysis, classic study, or a primary source on your topic. Check Summon or MIDCAT to see if they are in our Library. If using MIDCAT, look at the full record and explore the subject links in the records.


Once you begin finding and reading important works on your subject, the bibliographies of those works will help you identify valuable primary sources, other secondary works, and other information.

Use the LIBRARY SUBJECT GUIDE for your discipline.

The Library Subject Guides will point you to databases and indexes for books, journals, magazines, newspapers, as well as subject encyclopedias and dictionaries, bibliographies, statistical sources, and specialized resources for the discipline, including primary source material. And don't forget to ask for a research consultation with a Reference Librarian.

Finding Books and Other Materials in Summon, MIDCAT, NExpress, and Worldcat

Start your search with Summon (comprehensive library search tool) or MIDCAT (Middlebury's Library Catalog) to see what Middlebury already has and to identify key subject terms to use in other catalogs and indexes.

For MIDCAT, the SUBJECT search uses Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  If you don't know which LCSH headings are relevant, try using a KEYWORD search using terms you are familiar with.  The keyword search will look for your terms in the full record including title, subject fields, and table of contents (if included).  Once you find relevant works, look at the full record and follow any relevant subject links. *Note: Reference Librarians can also help you identify relevant Subject terms.

Make note of useful LCSH subject terms to use in NExpress (a catalog of 6 NE college libraries holdings, including Middlebury - used for express borrowing) and Worldcat (a catalog of over 40 million books, documents, reports, and media from libraries worldwide). Both NExpress and Worldcat have links to borrow items.

NExpress buttonYou can easily go from searching MIDCAT to searching NExpress by following the link to NExpress at the top of your results page.  Worldcat is listed under MIDCAT's Other Catalogs link.


Tip: Search in these catalogs for a published bibliography on your topic.

An annotated bibliography created by an expert on the topic can save you much effort.  Look for the subheading -- bibliography from Subject search results or use bibliography as one of your terms in a keyword search.  Example subject search: United States--Economic Conditions--1918-1945--Bibliography

Finding Journal, Magazine, and Newspaper Articles

Search using Summon (comprehensive library search tool) or consult the Library Subject Guides for your discipline and related disciplines to identify specialized library databases.  These guides have sections for journals and newspaper databases.  There is also a separate Newspapers Research Guide.

Search in each index or database using your list of subject headings, key terms, names, etc. you've discovered so far.

If the full text is not included or linked to in the specialized database, you will need to check Summon, MIDCAT or the Journal A - Z list to see if we have the item. If using Midcat or the Journals list, be sure to search by the name of the journal, not the article title. For articles within books, search by the title of the book it is in, not the chapter title or author. If we don't have it, you can request the item via NExpress (if available) or Interlibrary Loan.

Finding Materials to Borrow from Center for Research Libraries (CRL)

Middlebury is a member of the Center for Research Libraries and can borrow any materials from their collection. CRL materials can be borrowed for extended checkout if no one else requests the item!  CRL specializes in harder to get periodicals (including many foreign language newspapers and journals) and other resources. See their collections description. Search the CRL catalog to identify items, and then request them via ILL and note it's available from CRL.

Finding Primary Sources

What are primary sources?

It is difficult to make firm distinctions between primary and secondary sources, but generally primary sources are first-hand information. This includes information written or compiled in the time period of an event or derived from a person who witnessed or participated in an event. There should be a strong element of being contemporary to your subject.

What are some examples?

Original manuscripts, documents and records, diaries, memoirs, letters, newspapers and magazines of the period, legal cases, hearings, minutes, photographs, art, memorabilia, oral histories, interviews,
research data and reports

How do I identify and locate primary materials?

Start by searching in Summon or MIDCAT (then expand your search to NExpress, Worldcat, and the Center for Research Libraries catalog). Libraries have many primary sources found in book form, government documents, and on microfilm. Try combining your subject terms with keywords such as sources, correspondence, narratives, letters, diaries, interviews, etc.

For more examples, see these Middlebury handouts:

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Using MIDCAT

Searching for Primary Sources--Some Questions to Ask Yourself

Check the Library Subject Guide for your discipline.  Some guides have sections for Primary Sources. There is also a separate Government Information Resources Research Guide.

Check Middlebury's Special Collections & Archives Collection. Many of their holdings are listed in MIDCAT.  Try restricting your search to "Special Collections" from the drop-down menu next to the search box.

Check Middlebury's Digital Collections page (these items are also indexed in Summon).

Check the web. Many primary sources have been digitized and are available on the web. See the Using Primary Sources on the Web guide from the Reference & User Services Association.

Also look for references to primary works cited in bibliographies of secondary works, then check MIDCAT to see if we have the source. If we don't have the source, it may be possible get some materials via NExpress or regular Interlibrary Loan.

Using Other Libraries, Museums, or Research Collections

If you think you may want to use other institutions for your research, there are a variety of catalogs, collection guides, directories, and indexes which can be consulted to help you identify collections related to your broad topic. Be sure to check their hours and access policies ahead of time! See the Using Other Libraries section of this guide for more information.

For instance, try

Subject Collections
New York: Bowker, 1993.
Library Reference Z731 .A78 1993.


For specific suggestions, consult with your faculty advisor and/or a reference librarian.

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