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SOCI 3920: Advanced Topics in Gender and Sexuality

This guide accompanies library and archives research instruction provided by Jenna Freedman and Martha Tenney for Elizabeth Bernstein's Fall 2020 Seminar.

A Note about Primary and Secondary Sources


Primary sources are materials contemporaneous to the time you are researching, created by someone with first-hand experience of the phenomena that you are researching. Primary sources can come in any format, including newspaper articles, diaries, memoirs, letters, reports, scholarly articles, books (including works of fiction and non-fiction), films, artworks, laws, financial records, posters, photographs, and artifacts. 

Archives are materials created by people or organizations, in the course of their every-day activity, which are preserved because of their historical significance or value for research. Another definition of archives: unique constellations of materials, collected and preserved because they contain important information and/or evidence of their creator's responsibilities and actions. All archival collections are comprised of primary sources, but not all primary sources are archival.

For more about finding and using archives, including the Barnard Archives, see our guide Archival Research at Barnard and Beyond and feel welcome to set up an appointment with Martha.

Finding primary sources in secondary-ish places

Because primary sources can come in any format, many databases and other places you would look for secondary sources are also good for finding primary sources. Examples of this include books in CLIO or HathiTrust and scholarly journal articles in JSTOR (which includes articles from the 19th century, helpful for researching the history of a given field or area of knowledge) or other databases. One way to find primary sources in these places is to limit by date to the period you're researching. Another is to use keywords (particularly in CLIO) such as memoir, autobiography, source*, documentary (which often refers to books of re-printed primary source materials), letters, etc. 

In addition to the resources listed below, historical newspapers and other news media can be a great place to find primary sources from the time you're researching.

Selected Digital Archives Collections

Some of these resources represent digitized archival materials from specific institutions; others are portals to multiple institutions' digital collections or databases collocating digital archival materials on a given topic. These collections include some formats highlighted elsewhere in this guide, including newspapers, government documents, and books; in addition, they contain manuscript materials (e.g. letters, notes, drafts of publications), photographs, and more. Archives are rarely able to digitize the entirety of their holdings or the entirety of a given collection; you should look to see full descriptions of collections on an institutions' website to get more context for digitized archival materials.


The Empirical Reasoning Center - provides help formulating empirical questions, finding appropriate data sets, and  guidance and training with analysis software.

Barnard Zine Library

Welcome to the Barnard Zine Library!

The Barnard Zine Library is part of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS) in the Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning at Barnard College, Columbia University. The zines are described in the library catalog we share with Columbia University Libraries (CUL), CLIO.

Barnard's zines are created by women and non-binary people, a collection emphasis on zines by women of color and an effort to acquire more zines by trans women. We collect zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders. The zines are personal and political publications on activism, anarchism, body image, gender, parenting, queer community, riot grrrl, sexual assault, trans feminisms, and other topics.

There are two zine collections: circulating stacks and special collections.

Circulating zines are located on the 2nd floor of the Milstein Center and can be borrowed by Barnard and Columbia students and members of the BorrowDirect and MaRLI networks and are also available via interlibrary loan. Barnumbia loans are semester long and renewable 99 times.

The zine library is open the same hours as the Milstein Center, and can be checked out during Circulation & Help Desk hours.

Zine Intellectual Property Considerations

  • “Reproducing/reprinting all or any part of this zine without prior consent will be considered utterly disrespectful and generally uncool.” - Aqsa Zine #4 Ancestors + Descendants. Sept. 2011. Print.
  • Researchers may scan, photograph, or otherwise reproduce zine text and images for their own use. Researchers may not publish zine images or substantial amounts of text in print, on the web, or in any public format, without making every effort to secure permission from the zine creator. If the zine creator is deceased or difficult for the researcher and zine librarian to locate, discuss other options with the zine librarian.
  • All zines are protected by copyright unless they contain an anti-copyright statement.
  • Read and contribute other special zine copyright/fair use statements on the Zine Libraries website.

Selected Government Document Databases

Selected Newspaper, Magazine, and Other News Media Databases

Many of the databases noted in the Primary Sources sections of this guide also contain digitized newspapers and magazines. Those databases are not repeated here--definitely check those lists out if there is a subject area or time period not covered in these databases.

Search Techniques for Magazines and Newspapers

This guide lists digitized, full-text searchable databases for newspapers and magazines, with a focus on databases that have historical (e.g. 20th century and earlier) coverage. In order to search in these databases, you should use terms that would have been in wide use at the time of the writing of the article, even if those terms or words would not be in use currently. Build these lists of keywords from your reference sources, secondary sources and from other primary sources. 

We have access to many more newspapers and magazines than are included in the databases listed on this guide. To search for a specific newspaper or magazine, for publications from a certain city, or for a specific article, use CLIO:

  • To search for a newspaper or magazine, search in the Catalog. You can search first in E-Journal Titles to see if we have digital coverage of the journal during the years you are looking for; if not, broaden your search to the Catalog as we may have it in print or on microfilm. Narrow your format to Newspaper or Journal/Periodical to hone in on the correct title and keep in mind that there may be many publications with the same name--look to place of publication or the full catalog description to determine if it is the right one. Click on the catalog record; the box on the right will have information about what years we have and in which format/from which databases.
  • To find newspapers from a certain city, search in the Catalog, narrowing the format to Newspaper first (you can do this with other formats such as Journal/Periodical, but since we have access to so many more scholarly journals than popular magazines, you may not find the type of periodical you're after). Then select Publication Place in the search bar and enter the name of the town or city, adding quotes for place names with more than one word, e.g. "Los Angeles". This is not a fool-proof method, and you may try similar searches in WorldCat to find many more publications.
  • To search for a specific article (for which you have a citation, ideally with the publication and date), try searching first in the Articles tab, making sure to unselect the pre-applied "Not Content Type: Newspaper Article." If the article is not returned, follow the above instructions to search for the name of the newspaper or magazine in the Catalog. If you do not find it, or if we do not have coverage for the date on which the article appeared, you can put in an ILL request for the article. Try to include as much information on the request as you can, and know that this approach will take some time. Another approach is to see if NYPL or NYU has coverage for the newspaper or magazine and go to a branch or to NYU to use it (Barnard and Columbia students have reciprocal on-site access to NYU Libraries).‚Äč

Web Archives - Finding and Making

  • Access past versions of websites using the Internet Archives' Wayback Machine.
  • You can also find curated sets of archived websites on Archive-It (search for a URL, keyword, etc.--the actual archived websites themselves are keyword searchable).
  • In order to create stable, archived versions of websites for citation, there are a couple of options:
    • You can go to the Wayback Machine and use the "Save Page Now" feature
    • For more dynamic, difficult to archive content (like social media), you can use the free tool Conifer
  • The Association of Internet Researchers has a set of ethical guidelines that are instructive when doing online research.