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History - Primary Sources   Tags: american history, history, primary sources, world history  

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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What are primary sources?

What are Primary Sources?

  • For historians, primary sources are “first hand” accounts, which are generally written at the time of an historic event, or shortly thereafter. 
  • These sources include letters, diaries, manuscripts, and newspaper articles as well as records of governmental agencies and other organizations.
  • They may be published or unpublished. Speeches and oral histories may be printed transcripts or audio recordings. Maps, photographs and advertisements can also be primary sources as can statistical data, audio/video materials, e-mails and artifacts.

Examples of Primary Sources

- Diary of Clara Barton

- Letter from Abraham Lincoln

- U.S. statute: PL110-343, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

- 1942 photopgraph of anti-aircraft guns

- CD recording of Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech


Finding Resources in the Library (Online Catalog)

Use the General Keyword search box and type in your topic plus one of the following words or phrases:


      History Source*

      History Document*

      Personal Narrative*

      Diar* (this retrieves Diary and Diaries)

      History Archive*




      Primary source*


Note: Use of the * at the end of a word will search for singular and plural forms.


Basic Online Catalog Search

Sr. Technical Services Librarian

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