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HIS-102: History of Western Civilization II : Mid-17th Century to the Present

Find primary sources

"Primary sources are materials produced by people or groups directly involved in the event or topic under consideration, either as participants or as witnesses."

Quoted from:A Pocket Guide to Writing History, 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007

Examples of primary sources, both print and online, include:

  • Official documents, reports and publications
  • Letters, diaries, memoirs, or published writings
  • Cartoons and advertisements
  • Newspaper or magazine articles
  • Speeches
  • Autobiographies
  • Statistical data
  • Oral or transcribed interviews
  • Artifacts & realia
  • Maps
  • Audio & Visual Materials - Photographs, film & video, digitized collections, sound recordings

Primary Sources:

Materials which have not been interpreted by another person.  Original documents or works of art created at or near the time an event occurred. Primary sources provide first hand accounts of experiences or events. Information is generally presented in its original form, whether it be a work of literature or art, or an account of an event or experience, or original documents or research products such as interviews, speeches, questionnaires, letters, diaries, manuscripts, memoirs, etc. Includes books, periodicals, and web sites.

Secondary Sources:

Secondary sources provide second hand accounts of events.  These sources include materials that have been reported, analyzed, or interpreted by people who do not have firsthand knowledge of an event and may be found in books or periodicals, or on web sites.

To search for primary sources in the Reynolds Libraries catalog, try subject terms such as:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • sources

Subject term Examples:

  • African Americans -- Interviews
  • Jefferson, Thomas 1743-1826 -- Correspondence
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal Narratives
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal Narratives, American

If the person you are researching has written any books on their views or life (autobiography), try an author search in the catalog.

Author Examples:

  • barack obama
  • hillary rodham clinton
  • condoleezza rice
  • theodore roosevelt
  • booker t. washington




Searching for Primary Sources in the EBSCOhost Databases:

To search for primary sources in the EBSCOhost databases including: Academic Search CompleteHistory Reference Center, and MasterFILE Premier, type your search terms than select Primary Source Document from the Publication Type menu: 

Searching for Primary Sources in Gale Ebooks:

1. From the Advanced Search screen, enter your keywords in the 1st search box.

2. In the 2nd search box, enter the term, primary sources, then select Publication Title from the 2nd menu on the right.


Finding Primary Sources in Issues & Controversies in History:

After you select the specific issue you are interested in, click on Primary Sources from the menu on the left.

**For getting started tips on how to search these databases for primary sources, check out our Finding Primary Sources in Library Catalog & Databases guide**

Librarian's Top Pick

Other primary source collections on the open web to try: