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History: Asian

What is a Primary Source?

word cloud of primary source types including photographs, music, newspapers, maps, reports

Primary Sources are: 

  • A first-hand account or testimony of the past, written during that present moment

  • Something that describes the reactions or thoughts of a particular time period

Primary Sources are vastly different across a variety of disciplines, but the basic definition of what a primary source is stays the same - a testimony or an account describing reactions or thoughts from a particular time. How these testimonies take shape is what changes across disciplines. 

Tips & Tricks for Searching

Finding primary sources is a multi-step process. There is no "one-stop-shop" database that will give you everything you need for your paper. Follow these tips: 

  • Look at the bibliographies and footnotes from articles and books to see what primary sources those scholars are using for evidence
  • Think and research multiple institutions, archives, or repositories that could have information and collections about your project
  • Use historical language 
  • Keep it simple. Use broad keywords to find sources

When searching for primary source collections online, include the following additional phrases with your first key words: 

  • online collections
  • digital collections
  • digitized collections
  • historical collections

Be aware that digital collections only show a small portion of what an institution holds! 

Related Guides with Primary Sources