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Primary Sources: Home

Primary Sources

Primary sources are found by combining your topic with the term - Sources. Examples:

  • History - Sources
  • World War, 1939-1945 - Sources
  • Shakespeare, William, -- 1564-1616 -- Sources
  • African American women -- History -- 19th century -- Sources

You may also combine your topic with these specific terms:

  • Biography (but only use the autobiographical parts)
  • Catalogs (used to find works of Art)
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Exhibitions (used to find works of Art)
  • Interviews
  • Letters - See Correspondence
  • Manuscripts,
  • Personal narratives
  • Photography
  • Pictorial works
  • Polls
  • Portraits
  • Public opinion
  • Speeches, addresses, etc.

Using OneSearch to find Primary Sources

Go to OneSearch and search on your topic.

Under Source Types on the left side of the page, limit the results to Primary Source Documents.

What are Primary Sources

Primary sources reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. It constitutes first hand evidence "from" the time... as opposed to "about" the time.


  • Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts, memoirs, autobiographies, government documents, and organizations records.
  • Books and articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers written at the time about a particular event.
  • Photographs, paintings, portraits, and audio and video recordings documenting what happened.
  • Surveys and polls and interviews.

Favorite Titles

History: Primary Sources

Here is a wonderful guide on Primary Sources by Jill Anderson at Georgia State University!

(image from

Salem Press

An interdisciplinary eBook collection containing a large number of primary source titles including:

Defining Documents in American History

  • Exploration & Colonial America (1492-1755)
  • The American Revolution (1754-1805)
  • The American West (1836–1900)
  • Civil War (1860–1865)
  • Reconstruction Era (1865–1877)
  • The Emergence of Modern America (1874–1917)
  • The 1900s (1900-1909)
  • The 1910s (1910-1919)
  • The 1920s (1920–1929)
  • The 1930s (1930–1939)
  • Postwar 1940s (1945–1950)
  • The 1950s (1950-1959)
  • The 1960s (1960-1969)
  • World War I (1914–1919)
  • World War II (1939–1946)
  • Civil Rights (1954–2015)


Defining Documents in World History

  • The Ancient World (2700 B.C.E.–c.500 C.E.)
  • Middle Ages (476–1500)
  • Renaissance & Early Modern Era (1308-1600)
  • The 17th Century (1601-1700)


Great Events from History

  • The Ancient World, Prehistory-476 c.e.
  • The Middle Ages, 477-1453
  • Renaissance & Early Modern Era, 1454-1600
  • The Seventeenth Century 1601-1700
  • The Eighteenth Century
  • The Nineteenth Century


Milestone Documents in

  • African American History
  • American History
  • World History
  • World Religions