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Research Guides

CAMS 210: Social Histories of Computing

Find Primary Sources Using SuperSearch

SuperSearch can be a helpful starting place for finding some primary sources in our collections and beyond (but see the important caveat below). Since you're looking for historical evidence of the public reception and cultural influence of cybernetics, popular newspaper and magazine articles will be particularly useful. You can use the Source Types limiter under Refine Results to limit to newspapers and magazines and the Publication Date limiter to find mentions of your keywords during a particular time period.

Caveat: Many sources from our historical news databases and primary source collections do not come up in SuperSearch results, so be sure to explore the other resources and strategies on this guide for more options.

Find Historical Newspaper & Magazine Articles in Library Databases

The Wellesley Library has many databases that contain older magazine and newspaper content. Some databases are focused on magazines or newspapers exclusively and easy to identify, but some general and subject-specific databases also contain magazine and newspaper content in addition to scholarly articles and books.

Below are just a few suggested starting places.

  • You'll find many more digitized newspaper and magazine resources on our Historical News guide.
  • If you're interested in exploring the impact of cybernetics on particular areas such as art, music, or politics, use the A-Z Databases list (linked under SuperSearch on the LTS homepage) and filter by Subject to find specialized databases for your area of interest. Some of these will have older magazine and newspaper content in addition to scholarly sources. The database descriptions will tell you what publication years are covered.
    • For example, under Art & Architecture, you'll find Art Index Retrospective: 1929-1984. After you do a search, use the Source Types filter to find articles in a wide variety of art magazines, and the Publication Date filter to narrow to a particular time period.


Tips for searching Reader's Guide Retrospective (and other indexes):

  • Because you're not searching a lot of full text in this database, you'll want to keep your searches fairly simple. For example, try starting with a search for cybernetic* or for Norbert Wiener (or another practitioner's name). (See the Search Tips on this page for an explanation of the * symbol and other search strategies.)
  • Change the Select a Field option to TX All Text, so that you're searching for your keywords in the full text, when it is available. (The default setting searches only information about each article, such as the article title, abstract, and subject terms.)
  • To see if a particular publication is indexed in this database, you can search for it from the Publications link at the top of the screen. You can then click on the title and search within that publication.

Screenshot showing a search in Reader's Guide Retrospective for the publication Ebony

Important Note: Using the Advanced Search link (at the top right) in OpinionArchives will give you more control over your search. Specifying a date range is currently causing searches to return no results for some publications, even though those results exist. Instead, use the Advanced Search and change "Sort by" to "oldest" to see the oldest results first.

Tip: Change the Select a Field option to TX All Text to search for your keywords in the full text of articles. (The default setting searches only information about each article, such as the article title, abstract, and subject terms.)

Find a Specific Newspaper or Magazine

Online in the Library

To find out if the library has a particular newspaper or magazine online:

  • Search for the publication title in the Publication Finder (linked under the SuperSearch box on the LTS homepage).
  • Click on Full Text Access under the title to see where the publication is available and what dates are covered.
  • Click on a link that that covers the years you're interested to browse or search the magazine.

If the library doesn't have the publication or the years you want online, or if you want to examine the original print version, see other options below.


In Print or on Microfilm in the Library

To check whether we have issues in print or on microfilm (What is microfilm?):

  • Go to the Library Catalog (linked under the SuperSearch box on the LTS homepage).
  • Change Keyword to Title/Journal Title and search for the title of the publication.
  • There may be multiple catalog records for a title, so scroll down through the list to find them all. For example, if you search for ebony, you'll see that we have the magazine in print going back to 1961 and on microfilm going back to 1945.
  • Although you can't run a keyword search on a hard copy, you can browse the tables of contents (or indexes, when available) for relevant years. You can also search for the publication in Readers' Guide Retrospective (see above) and then do a keyword search to identify potentially relevant articles.


Freely Available on the Web

Another option is to search the Web for the publication to see if there is an available archive of older issues. Even if you can't access the full text, you may be able to identify articles of interest that you can request through Interlibrary Loan.

Wikipedia can sometimes be helpful for identifying archives of back issues. For example, the Wikipedia article for Ebony points to an archive of issues going back to 1959 on Google Books. Other useful resources for finding online newspaper and magazine archives (including international) are

Other Databases with Primary Sources

Search Tips & Strategies

  • Use the truncation symbol * to search for variations on a keyword.
    • For example, cybernetic* will expand the number of results by finding results with different endings, e.g., cybernetic, cybernetics, or cyberneticist.
  • Pay attention to terms that come up in your searches and reading that could be useful for finding additional sources. This is particularly important when you're searching for older sources that may use unfamiliar or archaic terms (e.g., cybernate, cybernation).
  • The Society of American Archivists has put together an extensive guide to Finding and Evaluating Archives, with strategies and resources for finding primary source materials. 
  • See the General Search Strategies page of this guide for more tips.