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SSI2-117: Coming Out! The Gay Liberation Movement: Finding Primary Sources

Selecting Your Primary Source Material

Selecting your primary source text(s) is one of the most important decisions you will make as you undertake this research project.  You will want to spend significant time exploring which documents are available that are related to your topic. Try to give yourself sufficient time to explore multiple options. You will want to choose primary sources that invite numerous questions related to the theme of the course and that are rich and complex enough to allow for extended analysis and interpretation. 

For this project, you will be making use of the Archives of Sexuality & Gender, a digitized collection of archival materials. Archival documents are unique print materials that may or may not have been originally intended for a wider audience or that are more ephemeral in nature. 

Search Tips

There are several ways to use the Archives of Sexuality & Gender to locate your primary sources. Don't forget to prepare a list of related terms and concepts BEFORE you begin searching! This will save you time and give you a sense of direction as you search.


Browsing and Searching in Collections

Browsing collections can be a good way to generate ideas if you are still unsure of your topic. This archive contains full collections of materials, such as Gay and Lesbian Politics and Social Activism: Selected Newsletters and Periodicals from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society (mostly documenting gay and lesbian history in San Francisco's Bay Area), Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin and the Daughters of Bilitis​, and much more.

After you've selected a collection, use the small search box on the results page to search documents within that collection.


Searching the Archive

Number 1 Search Tip: Use Advanced Search and limit features whenever possible. Subset limits, date limits, subject searches, etc. -- are all useful time savers. Search tips for other databases also apply in the Archives of Sexuality & Gender.

  • Start with a general search.
  • Avoid long phrases.
  • Use AND to find all the words (distinct concepts) on your topic.
  • Use OR to find any of the words (synonyms or related concepts) on your topic.
  • The symbol * is used as a right hand truncation character in most databases; it will find all forms of a word.
  • Use quotation marks '' '' to search for an entire phrase
  • Be flexible in your searching.

Embedded Visualization Tools

Many full-text databases, including the Archives of Sexuality and Gender, now offer embedded tools for basic text analytics.

Example 1:  Word Frequencies Over Time

Term frequencies show how often a term or phrase occur with the documents, either by the number per year or by popularity (in what percentage of documents in a given year).

Search for the phrase " gay power" with no date limitations. Look for the term frequency search on the right side of the results page (to search for frequencies within results). 

What patterns do you notice?  What questions do you have?  How might you go about answering these questions? 


Example 2:  Word Clusters Over Time

Search for the terms:  marriage and equal*.  (The asterisk tells the database to search for all forms of the word.)  Are the results what you expect?  Why or why not?  What other terms might you want to search?


Example 3:  Word Clusters

Term Clusters show other terms that appear near your search terms in the documents.

Run a search for "lavender menace." On the right side of the results page, look for and select "Topic Finder."

Term Clusters in the Archives of Sexuality & Gender

What does the visualization wheel tell you?  What can't it tell you?  What other term searches might you want to do?

Primary Sources Online

News Databases

Primary Source Subject Collections