What are primary sources?
- provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation without evaluation or interpretation.
- contain the information from which a secondary or tertiary source is derived and are written by someone directly involved in the historical event or primary research.
- include original documents such as diaries, speeches, letters, audio transcripts, emails, autobiographies, and interviews
- include creative works such as photographs, novels, poetry, music, and artworks
Source: University of Maryland Libraries
How do I find primary sources?
Finding primary sources in the catalog is easier when you know the words used to describe them.
If you know the name of an individual or an organization search it as the author in the library catalog.
Enter personal names as Last Name, First Name
"Franklin, Benjamin" is helpful to get books, letters, and diaries written by him instead of about him.
Names of organizations are entered in the direct order of the name.
"National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" finds files, reports, and conference notes.
Advanced Keyword Search:
These terms can be added to your search to help describe a type of primary source you want to find.
- cartoon or comic strip
- diary or diaries
- personal narrative
Example Advanced Keyword Search:
(submarine OR navy OR naval) AND (diaries OR narratives OR sources)
Results of this search include e-books containing the diaries and letters of war-time navy pilots as well as government documents written by U.S. Navy officials.
Usually, library catalogs have at least one Subject describing the general topic of the item. Subjects may be subdivided to indicate geographical location, time period, or format. Some of the Subject subdivisions that may indicate an item is a primary source include correspondence, diaries, interviews, and sources.
Example Subject Search:
Women's Rights -- United States -- History -- Sources
The results of this search include essays and other primary sources written by activists throughout the women's right movement in U.S. history.