A primary source is a firsthand account created during the time period being studied. It is the words of witnesses or the first record of an event. Primary sources include: letters, diaries, speeches, audio recording, newspaper articles, photographs, and maps. Books can also be primary sources if they are first hand testimonies of an event.
Try these books for advice on using primary sources in your research - or contact the Reference & Instruction Librarian!
Determine your subject by reading background information in encyclopedias, textbooks, dictionaries, etc.
Try to answer the following:
For examples, if your topic is "Women in the American Civil War," then your answers may be:
Determine what types of records or documents would have been made during the time period.
Guiding Questions with Potential Sources
Identify keywords to use in a search. The keywords should describe your subject and include the types of primary source materials you're looking for.
Primary source searches include: sources, documentary history, personal narratives, autobiographies, memoirs, eyewitness, correspondence, letters, diaries, advertising, newspapers, maps, artifacts, archives
Many archives and museums are digitizing their collections, which means you can view (and often download or save copies) of primary sources from any device with an internet connection.
Listed here are some search tools for finding archival material, as well as some libraries, archives, and museums with extensive digitized collections.