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a general guide for the broad subject of history

Primary Sources

Primary sources are created around the time of an event, or by someone who witnessed the event. Examples include newspapers, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, etc...   
The resources can help with figuring out what questions to ask when evaluating primary sources.

MANY primary sources are not online.

Use the "NEW" CAT to find early printed books, government documents, maps, videotapes, sound recordings, music scores and many other types of materials. Limit your CAT search by date to find documents produced near the time of the event you are researching.

The Special Collections Library contains original primary source documents. Many of these can be found in the "NEW" CAT, but others are not yet listed.

Microfroms & Government Information contains primary source documents in microformat (microfilm, fiche, etc...)

Below are some keywords you can use in The CAT to locate published primary documents:

  • Sources (combine with other keywords for document collections, e.g. Middle Ages and sources)
  • Eyewitness or Personal Narratives (French Revolution and eyewitness)
  • Letters or Correspondence (add an author's name, e.g. Benjamin Franklin and correspondence)
  • Diaries/Diary (Works best with the author's name, e.g. Diary and Anne Frank)
  • Documents or Documentary (combine with a topic, e.g. documentary history and Women)

Personal papers and other unpublished primary sources can usually only be accessed at the library or archive holding the original documents.  These databases and websites will help you discover collections in other libraries, historical societies, and archives.