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HIST 100 Stuff: Objects and Their (Hi)Stories (Spring 2023)

Books at WM Libraries

The W&M Libraries have an outstanding and large collection of books, both in print & electronic.

Using our central catalog you can find books at W&M and at the Rockefeller Library of Colonial Williamsburg.

On this page is a step-by-step guide to using the PRIMO catalog to find books & ebooks.



AND - searches for books and articles containing both terms. Example: "barbed wire" AND "barb wire"

OR - searches for one of the words. Example: "barbed wire" OR "barb wire"

NOT - exclude a term. Example:  "barb wire" NOT prisons

Parenthetical notes () - excellent for OR or NOT searches. Like a math equation, the database will do this part first.
Example: ("barbed wire" OR "Barb wire") AND ranchers = search for the materials about ranchers and barded or barb wire.
Example: ("barbed wire" NOT "World War") AND history= search for crime in history of barbed wire but exclude articles about the world wars or trenches. 

Quotation Marks ""- Links words together in the search. Works best for phrases or proper names.
Example: "barbed wire"
Example: "western states"
Warning: You might exclude results. A search for "barb wire" will exclude "barbed wire"

Asterisk * - Allows you to search several word endings at once, without using OR.
Example: farm* will include farm, farms, farmer, farmers, farmyard, etc
Example: bicycl* will give you results for bicycle, bicycles, bicycler, bicyclers, bicycling
Example: Wom* will give you woman, women, women's, womanhood etc
Warning: You may get unexpected results: Wom* also givs you wombat and womb

Searching the Catalog

  • Write out your topic & highlight the key terms (See your brain storm document)
    • The development of bicycles
  • Search 2 or 3 keywords connected by AND
    • Bicycles AND development


  • After getting results, limited to Book and Ebook

  • Take a moment to skim the results
    • Pay attention to the words in the titles: are there better search terms you can use
    • Be mindful of publication dates
    • use both books AND ebooks!
  • If none of the books look good, try a different search with Synonyms
    • Bicycles AND history

  • If there are too many results, try adding another AND with a 3rd keyword
    • Bicycles AND development AND society
  • Repeat as needed.
  • When you see books that look interesting, pay attention to the keywords and subjects in the record. These will help you find more books

Subject Headings

Subject headings can be hard to identify, BUT once you have subjects for your topic, you can very easily find books & articles on your topic.

When you find a book or article that is interesting, look at the "subject" section and take note of key subjects.

For example: bicycles, cycling, history, and social aspects are all subjects

Use the SUBJECT SEARCH option in the catalog ("PRIMO") to find books exactly on your topic.


Still too many results?

You can either limit by publication year, or add more search terms.

BUT BE CAREFUL: Too many search terms will ruin the results.

Be especially careful not to use too may subject terms at once.

Example: doing subject searches for Bicycles AND cycling will exclude a lot of books. Either use OR when searching both, or search them one at a time.