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Find Primary Sources

Find primary sources
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Primary Sources

The University Libraries provide access to a number of tools and collections that will help you locate primrary sources, which provide first hand evidence about an event, person, work of art or person. 

Add words such as diar*, letter*, memoir*, manuscript*, collection*, paper*, narrative*, account*, personal, correspondence, autobiography  

Try limiting the dates of publication by year, entering the dates bounding your time period.

 Search for key participants (people or organizations) in the events you are investigating as author.

Defining Primary Sources

Primary sources are original artifacts or documents. They are usually defined as first hand information that are communicated by witnesses or participants in past events. Primary sources are characterized not by their format but rather by the information they convey and their relationship to your research question.

Examples of primary sources include, but are not limited to:

  • Diaries and literary memoirs
  • Letters/correspondence
  • Artistic works (musical and visual arts)
  • News segments/transcripts
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Editorials
  • Legal documents and statistics 
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Experiment results
  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Fieldwork
  • Emails/ blogs/ listservs
  • Creative writing
  • Audio and video


Created during the time period by individuals involved in the event

Examples: architectural model or drawing, building or structure, letter, motion picture, organizational records, painting, personal account, photograph, print, sculpture, sketch book, contemporary review, interview, letter, manuscript, personal account, published work, score, recording.

Social Sciences

May include data collected about people, events, or environment

Examples: artifact, field notes, fossil, photograph,company statistics, consumer survey, data series, government report, interview, letter, news report, personal account, press release, public opinion survey, speech, treaty or international agreement, case study, clinical case report, experimental replication, follow-up study, longitudinal study, treatment outcome study, oral history.


Report or original findings 

Examples:  field notes, plant specimen, research report, building or structure, map, geological survey, patent, schematic drawing, technical report.