Primary Sources

On this page:

What Is a Primary Source?

The Library of Congress defines primary sources as "the raw materials of history - original documents and objects which were created at the time under study."

University of California at Irvine has a good list of the variety of items that can be primary sources - don’t think just documents!

Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age: How to Locate and Evaluate Information Sources (UH Hilo access)


Finding Primary Sources in LibCat and Ebook Central

You can craft a LibCat or Ebook Central search using keyword(s) specific to your topic and one at a time of the words from the list below:

  • autobiography
  • cases
  • correspondence
  • description and travel
  • diaries
  • fiction
  • interview
  • personal narrative
  • pictorial works
  • poetry
  • short stories
  • sources

Examples of Primary Sources in Mookini Library

This list represents just a small sample of the works available in the library:

  • The American Nation: Primary Sources
  • Early Modern Catholicism: An Anthology of Primary Sources
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England
  • Evaluating Evidence: A Positivist Approach to Reading Sources on Modern Japan (also available as an ebook)
  • Hawaiʻi Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture
  • Medieval Christianity in Practice
  • Milestone Documents in American History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped America
  • Milestone Documents in World History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped the World
  • The New Arab Revolt
  • Religion in Early Stuart England, 1603-1638: An Anthology of Primary Sources
  • Schlager Anthology of the American Revolution (see below for online access)
  • Schlager Anthology of Early America (see below for online access)
  • Schlager Anthology of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (see below for online access)

Schlager Anthology Ebooks of Primary Sources

Mookini Library has online access to three titles from Schlager Group that feature primary sources:

  • Schlager Anthology of the American Revolution (also available in print)
  • Schlager Anthology of Early America (also available in print)
  • Schlager Anthology of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (also available in print)

The website is geared to younger students: you must log in at the upper right to access the titles we have. The login information can be requested from After selecting "Read Online" for the title you want, access thumbnails of the pages using the symbol in the upper left under the GOGO Library logo; additional options are available using the gear icon and three dots at the upper right.

Finding Primary Sources on the Internet

The Library of Congress provides topic sets, resources by state, and research guides all focused on primary sources. Example of a topic set: Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has Primary Source Sets that “are designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources” from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. Example of a topic set: Japanese American Internment During World War II

New! JSTOR Primary Sources includes:

  • Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa
  • World Heritage Sites: Africa
  • 19th Century British Pamphlets

JSTOR Reveal Digital "develops Open Access primary source collections from under-represented 20th-century voices of dissent, crowdfunded by libraries. The content is curated and sourced from a wide array of libraries, museums, historical societies and individual collectors. The results are diverse thematic collections of scholarly value available to everyone everywhere." Collections include:

  • Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movememt
  • Documenting White Supremacy and its Opponents in the 1920s
  • HIV, AIDS & the Arts
  • American Prison Newspapers 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside
  • Student Activism on Campus in 20th-Century America
  • Independent Voices

Finding Primary Sources for Teachers and Students from the National Archives

History Matters provides links to online primary sources and also techniques for analyzing sources through their Making Sense of Evidence section.

Internet History Sourcebooks Project - from Fordham University, covering Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History, plus East Asian, Islamic, Gay/Lesbian/Transgender, Women’s History, and more!

Internet Sites with Primary Sources for History from Bowling Green State University

Shakespeare Documented “is the largest and most authoritative collection of primary-source materials documenting the life of William Shakespeare.”

Although you shouldn’t use Wikipedia as a source, you can use it to find sources. Many entries, including the one about Primary Sources, have an External Links section at the bottom that can lead you to reputable sources.

Citing Primary Sources