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Finding Primary Sources

This How Do I page will help you understand what a primary source is, why using primary resources are beneficial to your research, how you can tell if something is a primary source and where you can find primary sources.

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They offer contemporary accounts from participants or people directly involved in an event. To find out more about secondary sources, see our secondary sources page.

Examples include:

Why use primary sources?

Secondary sources are further removed from the events and often reflect the author’s biases. Using primary sources enables you to work with the raw material and draw your own conclusions.

How can I tell if something is a primary source?

The following characteristics can help you differentiate primary sources from those that are not.




Where can I find Primary Sources?

You can find primary sources at the library and local archives. You can also access primary sources using the library’s or online resources. The following list is not comprehensive, but it includes some good starting points to find Specific Types of Primary Sources or to search in General Primary Source Resources.

Find Specific Types of Primary Sources

You can use the Online Catalog Advanced Search to look for different types of primary sources.

  1. Enter the type of primary source you're looking for in the first box (examples include: narratives, correspondence, music scores, etc.)
  2. Change the drop-down menu next to the first search box from "Keyword" to "Subject"
  3. In the second box, type a related keyword (author, event, geographical location, etc.)

For example: You may type "narratives" in the first box and "Anne Frank" in the second box to look for Anne's diary and related primary sources.

News Transcripts are available through Lexis Nexis Academic.

  1. Enter search terms
  2. in the Search within category select "TV and Radio Broadcast Transcripts"
  3. Specify date
  4. Click Search

Speeches and Interviews can be searched in Academic Search Complete.

  1. On the search page scroll down to the Limit your results section.
  2. From the Document type option box on the right select Speech or Interview.  To search both simultaneously hold down the "Control" key when making a selection.

Editorials:  See the Guide to Finding Editorials to locate editorials.
See the Guide to Finding Images to locate photographs, paintings, and other images.
See the Guide to Finding Statistics to access various sorts of data.
See the Guide to Finding Films to locate films, documentaries, etc.

General Primary Source Resources:

Article and Newspaper Databases

Local Archive Sources

Public Web Sources

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