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History - Primary Sources

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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    • They may be published or unpublished.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

    Secondary and Tertiary Sources

    Comparison Across the Disciplines - University of Maryland





    Art and Architecture

    Painting by Manet

    Article critiquing art piece

    ArtStor database

    Chemistry/Life Sciences

    Einstein's diary

    Monograph on Einstein's life

    Dictionary on Theory of Relativity

    Engineering/Physical Sciences


    NTIS database

    User's Manual


    Letters by Martin Luther King

    Web site on King's writings

    Encyclopedia on Civil Rights Movement

    Social Sciences

    Notes taken by clinical psychologist

    Magazine article about the psychological condition

    Textbook on clinical psychology

    Performing Arts

    Movie filmed in 1942

    Biography of the director

    Guide to the movie


    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.

    Search the CFCC Library Catalog (Encore)

    Selected Books