Primary sources are often a required part of research within history. They often provide a view into the past, be it written by someone who witnessed the event or had a contemporary experience related to the subject being researched. Primary Sources are often created during the time being researched. For example, if researching religion in England in the Medieval Era, primary resources can be anything from church documents, The Canterbury Tales, or written documents made by people from the area and era in question, or people with experience of the subject in question, such as contemporary scholars or travelers.
Primary sources differ from secondary in that they are created contemporarily during or soon after the event in question. A letter written by Alexander Hamilton is a primary source, while Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton is a secondary source written by an expert on the subject. Secondary sources include scholarly books or academic peer-reviewed articles.
This Libguide’s goal is to provide a starting place for finding primary sources. It does not provide an exhaustive list of all primary sources available. For further help finding more primary sources, please use Ask a Librarian or set up an appointment with a librarian.
Items that can be considered Primary Sources if written during or soon after the subject being researched.
Propaganda Material (posters, ads, etc.)
Social Media Post (for more contemporary topics)
Advertisements (printed, audio, and video)
Always consider the source or person writing the primary source, just because it is from the era being researched does not mean it is an accurate description of events. Part of doing research with primary sources is learning how to interpret these documents. If two warring factions write a report about a battle they fought against each other for their citizens to read their reports might be contradictory. As you research, you will be able to interpret these different reports to build an idea of what happened or what these groups wanted their citizens to think happened.
Is the primary source you are looking for a book? Search the Morris Library Catalog and see if it is available. You can also check I-Share if it is not available at the Morris Library.
Below you will find a few recommended databases that contain historical newspapers that can act as a starting point in your research. The top resource is a link to another LibGuide that collected all the newspapers freely available to students and faculty from a range of publication dates including ones being published currently.