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HIST 300 - Introduction to Historical Thinking

Class library research guide for Introduction to Historical Thinking.

Library Research Guide

What Is a Primary Source?

"Anything that has been created by a person who witnessed or experienced an event as a contemporary would be a primary source. Examples of primary sources would include letters, diaries, autobiographies, and contemporary documents such as newspaper articles, government documents, and oral histories." --Tim Watts

Primary Sources in Books

Primary sources, including letters, papers, photographs, and other documents, can be published in books.

Find books with primary sources in Search It or using the following search method:

1. Use an Advanced Search screen. This will provide multiple boxes to mix-and-match search terms.

2. In one box, enter search terms that describe your topic (example: Japanese Americans).

3. In second box, enter search terms that describe primary sources. Possible terms include:

  • sources
  • papers
  • letters 
  • narratives
  • diaries
  • records

Combine the primary source terms using the word OR (example: sources OR papers OR letters OR diaries)

Primary Sources in Databases

These databases are good starting points for primary source materials. The “best” primary source databases in History will vary depending on your research question.

Reading the database description and the dates covered will help you decide which one to use.

We have many more databases with primary source materials. Find them by using the  "Primary" tag on our databases page.

Best Bets

These databases cover a diversity of publications and time periods and are typically digitized copies of documents, so that you can see them in as close to their original form as possible.



Peoples and Cultures

Time Periods

Audio-Visual Databases

These databases include primary sources like:

  • film footage
  • audio recordings
  • maps
  • images
    • art
    • architecture
    • textiles and fashion
    • weapons
    • daily objects (combs, dishes)