What is a Primary Resource?
Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence created by participants and/or observers of a historical event or time period enabling researchers to get as close to the truth of what actually happened. Often, these materials are created at the time when the events or conditions occured. However, primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs and oral histories that are written or recorded later.
Primary sources are characterized by their content not their format. Therefore, primary sources can be found in published books, on microfilm/microfiche, in digital form or in their original format.
The following types of materials are generally considered primary resources:
Reference sources may contain citations to repositories of papers or other primary material. The American National Biography and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography are good examples of such sources.
Bibliographies in scholarly books often arrange sources consulted by type. The language may vary but the arrangement is clear - primary and secondary, published and unpublished, manuscripts, letters, papers, archives, etc.
Footnotes in books and journal articles may refer to contemporary publications or other primary materials.
Search CLICsearch to find primary sources in books and ebooks. When searching, you will want to use specific subject headings in your searches to single out the primary source materials. These subject headings are specialized "tag" added to the records to books by catalog librarians to provide accurate descriptions of books. Using the following subject headings in your search will help you find the source material you seek:
|literary collections||pictorial works|
|diary or diaries||songs and music|