Define Primary Sources
Primary sources are the raw material upon which critical, analytic, and historic studies are based. These sources are the evidence left behind by participants or observers. Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Here are some examples of primary sources: Original works of an author, illustrator, artist, photographer, songwriter, etc.
|Original works of an author, illustrator, artist, photographer, songwriter, etc.|
|Letters||Ledgers, Account Books, Bills||Govt. Hearings|
|Speeches||Oral History Tapes||Census Data|
How do I find primary sources in the Goucher College Library?
In Special Collections and Archives
There are many wonderful primary sources right in our own Special Collections and Archives. The Special Collections and Archives reading room is on the upper level of the Athenaeum and is open to researchers 10 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday, except for campus holidays. Other research times are available by appointment. Contact Special Collections Librarian and College Archivist Tara Olivero (410-337-6347).
In Books and Manuscripts: search the online catalog
Search by Author to find original writings of a person, or documents published by a government or organization.
Search by Keyword or Library of Congress Subject Headings.
Primary sources will be found in books with one or more of the following subject heading subdivisions:
|--case studies||--songs and music||--personal narratives|
|--correspondence||--public opinion||--caricatures and cartoons|
The Library also subscribes to many online databases that provide access to primary sources in a variety of areas of research.
Newspapers and Journals
The American Periodical Series, 1740-1900 includes over 1,100 historically significant periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900.
America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1900 Full text articles from publications of all 50 present states.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1860-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.
- The Civil War: a newspaper perspective : Major articles from The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
- HarpWeek. The electronic version of Harper’s Weekly, the 19th century "Journal of Civilization."
- Historical Newspapers (ProQuest) includes the full text of articles in the New York Times (1851-1999).
- JSTOR is a fulltext database containing electronic backfiles of many scholarly journals, some dating to the 18th century.
- 19th Century Masterfile is an index to pre-1920 studies.
- Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922 Full-text of pamphlets, broadsides, advertisements, letters, slave narratives, and other literature by and about African-Americans from 1535 to 1922.
- American Civil War Letters & Diaries, 1861-1865 Full text of letters, diaries and memoirs written by over 2000 authors and biographies. Invaluable for research on this period of history; can be searched by names of people, battles, personal events, places, and dates.
- Black Thought and Culture Contains 438 works of non-fiction written by 192 leading African Americans from colonial times to 1975.
- British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries A collection which describes the immediate experiences of 91 British and Irish women, as revealed in approximately 24,000 pages of diaries and letters.
- Documenting the American South Primary sources and other materials related to southern history, literature, and culture, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's library.
- Early American Imprints Series I and Series II Full-text of virtually every book, pamphlet and broadside published in America from 1639 to 1819. Includes almanacs, cookbooks, diaries, textbooks, advertisements, contracts, charters, legislation, treaties, poems, songs, plays, the Bible, sermons, eulogies, and much more.
- Foreign Relations of the United States 1861-1960 (Incomplete run, University of Wisconsin)
- Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1976 (State Department)
- Founders Online George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Over 119,000 searchable documents, fully annotated, from the authoritative, federally funded Founding Fathers Papers projects.
How do I find primary sources in other places?
In Books and Manuscripts:
Search the Web Numerous full text literary works are freely available on the web. Particularly valuable is Google Book Search which points to hundreds of thousands of public domain books that may be downloaded as PDF copies. One may limit one's search from Google's Advanced Book Search to only those titles that are full-text.
- Look in bibliographies and compilations, such as:
American diary literature, 1620-1799 / by Steven E. Kagle. In the library: Main Collection 810.9 K11a
Oral history in Maryland : a directory/ compiled by Betty McKeever Key. In the library: 907.2 K44o
In Newspapers and Journals
Union lists tell you where to find specific newspapers in other libraries
Newspapers in Maryland libraries : a union list / compiled by Eleanore O. Hofstetter and Marcella S. Eustis. In the library: 071Q N558 Newspapers in microform: United States, 1948-1972. In the library: 070Q U585n.1
What are secondary sources and how do I find them?
A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon or the original writing of an author. A recent article that evaluates and analyzes the relationship between the feminist movement and the labor movement in turn-of-the-century England is an example of a secondary source; if you were to look at the bibliography of this article you would see that the author's research was based on both primary sources such as labor union documents, speeches and personal letters as well as other secondary sources. Textbooks and encyclopedias are also examples of secondary sources.
--from the UC Berkeley guide.
How do I find secondary sources?
A wealth of secondary literature can be found by using the databases available on this website. If you need help, ask a Reference librarian for assistance.