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University of Delaware Library Digital Collections

Special Collections

The Special Collections Department in the Morris Library includes many primary sources. Consult with the staff to identify appropriate sources. Manuscript collections may not be in DELCAT Discovery.

From Off Campus

Most Library online resources can be accessed from off campus by current UD faculty, staff, and students. When using links on these pages, you may be prompted for your UDelNetID and password. Please report any issues you encounter while accessing Library databases, e-journals, or e-books.

What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of topics or events. They provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence.

Primary sources include diaries, speeches, letters, manuscripts, memoirs, autobiographies, records of governments or organizations, and published materials (books, journals, newspaper articles) written at the time of an event or issue. Primary sources may also include photographs, tape recordings, oral histories, and maps. In literature, an original work such as a novel, poem, short story or play is also considered to be a primary source.

Secondary sources are accounts of the past written after the event. They are often based on information found in primary sources. They interpret or analyze a particular event. Secondary sources include textbooks, encyclopedias, and literary criticism.

  • It is often a good idea to review the secondary literature first to gain an understanding of the key players and events associated with the topic.

  • Primary sources are much easier to find with specific names and events for searching.

Searching in DELCAT Discovery

To find primary source materials in DELCAT Discovery, combine keywords for your topic with terms pertaining to material type.  Some terms for material types are: autobiography, correspondence, diaries, interviews, letters, manuscripts, memoirs, papers, "personal narratives,” sources  and speeches.  Some sample searches:

Holocaust AND diaries

"personal narratives" AND civil war AND united states

women AND world war 1939-1945 AND (sources OR letters)

John F. Kennedy AND speeches

african american migration AND sources

Primary Sources on the Web

Many collections of primary materials relating to the history of the United States and other countries have been digitized and made available on the Internet.

Subject Librarian

Kaitlyn Tanis's picture
Kaitlyn Tanis
History and Social Sciences Librarian
Reference & Instructional Services

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