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Journalism - Historical Research : Home

Tips, techniques & links to help you find primary sources for your journalism research papers & projects

Using This Guide

A University of Missouri logo with a gold M and U stacked vertically, outlined in blackContext is vital in journalism, and so historical research is an important skill. This guide will provide you with the resources to conduct historical research about journalism topics and with journalistic methods. Links to other guides and general historical resources are linked throughout.

The tabs above will direct you to pages populated with valuable resources for completing historical research for journalism projects.

Library Quick Links


Online Resources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are documents or physical objects written or created at the time historical events occurred or well after the events in the form of memoirs or oral histories.  The author or creator was present at the time of the event and offers a first-hand account. Primary sources may include:

Original Documents (Diaries, letters, speeches, notes, meeting minutes, interviews, news audio or video footage, autobiographies, official records (birth/death/marriage certificates), new research findings reported in scholarly journal articles, newspaper articles, government documents (laws, reports, statistics, data). 
Creative Works (music, photography, film, poetry, drama, novels, works of art, architecture)
Relics/Artifacts (jewelery, pottery, tools, weapons, clothing, buildings - created and used during the period of study)

Primary sources serve as raw material to interpret the past, and when used along with previous interpretations by historians, may provide resources necessary for historical research.

Find primary source material by searching:

Library Catalogs (monographs and serials containing autobiographies, memoirs, letters, speeches, interviews, etc.; government documents, newspaper and periodical microforms, maps, etc.)

Archives/Special Collections


Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources analyze, interpret, or comment on primary resources.  They may include books (handbooks, encyclopedias, biographies), articles, reviews, scientific studies, editorials, etc.

  • Conduct a literature review using secondary sources
  • Search the online catalog for books and serials
  • Search (print & digital) subject bibliographies and databases for scholarly articles: 
    • Norton, Mary Beth, editor; Pamela Gerardi, associate editor.  The American Historical Association's guide to historical literature.  New York : Oxford University Press, 1995.  3rd edition. Ellis Library Reference - D20 .A54 1995 (vol. 1-2)
  • Mine article bibliographies

Top MU database choices for historical research:

Need Help?

Ask Us: Get research assistance from the MU Libraries' staff via email, phone, or in person at the library. There's also a searchable list of frequently asked questions.  You can chat with a librarian 24 hours a day (M-F) and Saturday and Sundays starting at 10 a.m. You can contact your subject librarian to ask questions or to set up an appointment to meet one-on-one. 

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Email us at

Library: 573-882-7502

Vera Elwood
Head, Journalism Library
103A Reynolds Journalism Institute
Phone: 573-882-6591