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History (General)

Research guide for History

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event. They are created by someone who has a direct connection to the event in question. They document viewpoints, events, people, and the culture of the time you are studying.

A single source can be a primary source, a secondary source, or both, depending on the context you use it in.

Examples of primary sources include artworks, autobiographies, diaries, government data, interviews, letters, newspapers, photographs, speeches, survey data, treaties and videos.

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

Start your search in Swoop Search with a subject or keyword subject, then enter one of the following words (below) as a separate subject, then click on search.  

  • Sources [will pull up collections of documents]
  • Diaries
  • Correspondence
  • Interviews
  • Personal narratives

You may also want to try for certain keywords in the title, usually the subtitle, such as "documentary history," "letters," or "papers." You will almost certainly get some false hits, but you can weed through them.

Find Primary Sources

While you can find primary sources in almost any database, the databases in this box have a specific focus on primary sources. For more databases go to Databases by Title on the library homepage or contact your librarian!

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