Correspondence, diaries, memoires, interviews, account books, inventories, and other original documents, created at the time of an event or during the lifetime of an individual or institution, that can be used to understand people and events of the past, are considered primary source material. Depending upon the project, newspaper and magazine articles, images, film, and so forth may also be considered primary source materials.
To the right are strategies for finding original, transcribed, reprinted, and surrogate versions of primary sources. Tabs on this research guide lead to digital collections of primary sources we own.
The library catalog is a good place to start when searching for primary source materials such as correspondence, diaries, memoires, records, and other types of documents, either held in the library's Special Collections and Archives division, reprinted as books, or microform or digital surragates of the original.
Monographs written at the time of the event can make useful primary source material.
The terms, diaries, personal narratives, correspondence, interviews, sources, archives, manuscripts, and document* can be added to a keyword search, to locate primary sources in the library catalog, Prospector, and WorldCat. For example, if looking for primary source materials regarding George Washington, you can do a keyword search as follows:
george washington diaries
george washington correspondence
All but the last of the above terms are subheadings that appear frequently in Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).
Examples of LC Subject Headings with terms indicating primary source material underlined:
Indians of North America -- Wars -- 1866-1895 -- Personal narratives
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Sources
Read the introduction and/or preface, or look at the bibliographic citations for the individual transcriptions to discover where the documents consulted are kept.
A search in WorldCat and limited to "Archival Materials" will retrieve records for physical archives or archives that have been reproduced in some other format, such as microform.
For additional sources to find archival materials, consult other boxes in this section.
When searching in databases for surrogate primary sources, determine what vocabulary was used to describe the event and search using those terms.