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Where do I start?: Finding Primary Sources

Just what is a primary source anyway?

Primary sources provide the raw data you use to support your arguments. Some common types of primary resources include manuscripts, diaries, court cases, maps, data sets, experiment results, news stories, polls, or original research.  In many cases what makes a primary resource is contextual.  For example, a biography about Abraham Lincoln is a secondary resource about Lincoln. However, if examined as a piece of evidence about the nature of biographical writing, or as an example of the biographer's writing method, it becomes a primary resource.

Primary Source Stratgies

There are so many types of primary resources it is important to define your parameters by

  • Discipline (e.g. art, history, physics, political science)
  • Format (e.g. book, manuscript, map, photograph)
  • Type of information you need (e.g. numerical data, images, polls, government reports, letters)
  • Date range

For examples of primary resources, and more ways to find them

Selected Guides with Primary Source databases

For other types of primary source materials check the guides in your subject area, or ask for assistance.