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History: Find Primary Sources

What are primary, secondary, and tertiary sources?

Watch this 4 minute video: What is a primary source?

Primary sources are generally original records or first person accounts created at the time of an historical event or era. They may be created later, if by an eyewitness to the event or time period. Types of primary sources include:

  • Letters, diaries, memoirs,
  • Personal narratives, oral histories
  • Newspaper articles
  • Speeches, interviews
  • Images, sound recordings & videos

Secondary sources comment upon, analyze, explain, or interpret primary sources. They may include scholarly books, journal and magazine articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, reviews, and textbooks.


Tertiary sources summarize and synthesize the information in primary and secondary sources to provide background on a topic, idea, or event. They may include encyclopedias, handbooks, and biographical dictionaries.

Find Primary in catalog

Find Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

To find primary sources in the catalog, combine your keyword(s) searching Subject Contains with one or all of the following terms:


sources OR correspondence OR diaries OR personal narratives OR interviews OR diaries OR facsimiles OR notebooks OR speeches OR manuscripts OR early works to 1800 OR pamphlets


subject search for Vietnam War and sources OR correspondence OR diaries OR personal narratives


You can also search for collections of primary sources by adding the following search string to Any field contains:


"primary sources" OR "documentary history" OR sourcebook OR "history in documents" OR "documents in"

Primary Source Subscription Databases

The OSU Library subscribes to a number of archival and primary source databases. Click here to see a full listing.