Skip to main content

Researching California History

Ask Iris

Iris Carroll's picture
Iris Carroll
Office Location
East Campus, L & LC

(209) 575-6082 (messages only)

Research Help Desk Hours:
Because of the Coronavirus emergency, research help is available online via Ask a Librarian.


Get Started

Capitol Building of California - Cigarette Card

Becoming Familiar with your topic is a crucial first step

Doing some background reading at the beginning of your research helps you to understand your topic right from the start. You'll be able to put your topic in context and create research questions that drive your search for information.  In addition, when you begin hunting and gathering information, you’ll know if what you’re finding is relevant and useful.

The library has books, eBooks, and numerous types of sources in databases that can help you begin to explore the rich history of California.

Best Bets for Beginning to Learn About California:

Find Secondary Sources @the Library

secondary sources infographic

Use WorldCat, the library catalog, to find books and eBooks:

Use the search bar below to begin your search:



Use library databases to find secondary sources in journals, newspapers, magazines, books, and more.

Best Bets:

Find Primary Sources @the Library

Because primary sources are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation, they're a great way to gain insight into and an understanding of your event or topic. Often they are created during the time period that is being studied but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants.

You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways. For example, in books, in digital format on the Web, on microfilm, digital, etc.

Key Words for Finding Primary Sources:

Finding primary sources is pretty easy. 

Add these words to the end of your search for resources on any topic to focus your search specifically on primary sources:

  • sources
  • correspondence
  • personal narratives
  • photographs
  • diaries


For example: japanese internment sources


WorldCat logo

Use WorldCat, the library catalog, to find books and eBooks that contain primary sources. Start your search in the search bar below:




Use library databases to find secondary sources in journals, newspapers, magazines, books, and more.

Best Bets:

Explore Local History

To get started on local history projects visit our Local History & Information research guide by clicking on the picture or right here.

Local History research guide