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History: Find Primary Sources

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


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:


sourcebook OR "history in documents" OR "documentary history" 

Primary Source Guides

See the following primary source guides for history:

Primary Sources - Government Documents Databases

U.S. government documents are excellent sources for primary material. Searching in the catalog may pull up specific topics authored by the U.S. Government. For these publications it is best to talk with a Government Documents Librarian who can provide indexes and searching skills for these publications, saving you time and energy. Call 744-6546 and ask for a librarian or go to 5th floor of the Library before 5 pm and visit the their office. Below is a starting point to illustrate the rich collection of government material available to you. 

Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 - This complete collection of U.S. legislative material beginning in 1817 represents House and Senate reports and Senate treaty and executive reports.

Proquest Congressional - Based on U.S. congressional sessions, this databases will provide histories of bills and resolutions, debates and statements from House and Senate representatives and committee hearings.

HeinOnlineHeinOnline is a premier online database containing more than 150 million pages and 150,000 titles of legal history and government documents in a fully searchable, image-based format. HeinOnline bridges the gap in historical research by providing comprehensive coverage from inception of more than 2,400 law-related periodicals.