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


Examples of Primary Sources in the Mookini Library

This list represents just a small sample of the items available at Mookini Library. Use LibCat to search for the title and find the call number and location.

  • 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 online: Evaluating Evidence: A Positivist Approach to Reading Sources on Modern Japan 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

Finding Primary Sources in LibCat

You can also craft a LibCat search using keyword(s) specific to your topic and combining it / them with words (one at a time!) like:

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

Finding Primary Sources Online

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.

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