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History 303 - Finding Primary Sources in Archives

Help with archival research for HIST303

Using Cal Poly's Catalog for Special Collections Materials

What is OneSearch? 

OneSearch is the library catalog for the entire California State University system, launched in June 2017. With OneSearch, you can use a single search box to look for materials in all 23 CSU campus libraries. These items include articles, e-journals, and e-books, creating a large pool of resources in a single location to simplify the research process.

What Special Collections materials are in OneSearch?

Many items in Cal Poly's Special Collections and Archives are searchable in OneSearch. This includes books, journals, artists' books, senior projects and master's theses, and some archives collections. Special Collections has approximately 10,000 cataloged materials in our collections!

How do I find OneSearch?

You can search OneSearch from the library homepage, or go directly to OneSearch at

How do I perform a basic search?

If you start typing in the OneSearch search box on the library webpage, you will be performing a basic keyword search. Your keywords will be compared against every record in the catalog so you may get a lot of results! 

Learn more about searching the library catalog at the OneSearch FAQ Guide.

Advanced Searching for Special Collections materials

Search and filter: the simplest strategy for OneSearch

The most direct way to find materials is to search with keywords and use the many filters to narrow your results. 

Limiting your search to Special Collections

To limit your search to ONLY materials housed in Special Collections, using the left-hand filters, scroll down to "Library" and select "Kennedy Library Special Collections & Archives."


Refining Search by Date

Here are some tips that are useful for searching Special Collections and Archives materials in OneSearch. They can also be applied in any OneSearch search. 

OneSearch has a selection of limiters or filters which you can use to narrow down your search results. 

This is a great way to begin your search if you're not completely sure what you are looking for! You can start with a basic keyword search and slowly weed out materials that you are not interested in. 


Refining by date - sorting by oldest and newest published

Sometimes you will need to limit your results based on date of publication. There are two useful search tips for searching by date:

If you would like to see items sorted by date created (for example, if you wanted to see the earliest publications about California), you can use the "Sort by" function. Click on the drop-down and select "Date-oldest"

Refining by date - limiting to a span of years

If you want items that were created within a specific span of time, you can use the filter "Creation Date" and enter in the earliest and latest years you want to search. Then click "Refine" to to apply the filter.