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Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."

Source: American Library Association. Reference and Users Services Assn. Using Primary Sources on the Web.

American Library Association information on Using Primary Sources on the Web

American Library Association Using Primary Resources on the Web

The American Library Association has provided a wonderful document instructing students and researchers in both finding and using Primary Resources. This website guides the user in both evaluating and finding pertinent documents and sources.This guide is prepared by the Reference and Users Services Association of the ALA.

How to use this guide

This guide is intended to help students locate primary source materials.

  • Reference Books lists encyclopedias, handbooks, and dictionaries available in D'Amour Library. These types of books may be useful as you are establishing historical and theoretical background knowledge, understanding disciplinary terminology, and fact-checking. Some reference works contain fascimiles of major primary sources such as the Declaration of Independence.
  • Books and Media contains helpful hints for searching WILDPAC, the online library catalog, for books and videos.
  • Article Databases lists and describes various databases for finding journal articles. Some of the databases contain general articles on many subjects, while some are more subject specific. Typically, an article is considered a secondary resource providing criticism or evaluation. 
  • Selected Websites lists specialized academic search portals, state and federal government websites, and more freely available websites containing primary source documents.


    Subject Guide