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Primary Sources

Current vs. Historical Primary Sources: Searching Tips




Use language from the time period Use specific keywords to locate what type of source (i.e. interview)
Search broadly Search broadly                                                                                          
Think about where the source might "live" - who might collect this? Consult where sources are created (i.e. news outlets, social media)

Large Online Primary Source Collections - Historical

This is a list of the large digitized collections that are free and open to all to access. Almost every institution has some of their collections located online. Consider searching for smaller collections, in addition to larger collections. 

Additional Search Tips for Historical Sources

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 

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

  • online collections
  • digital collections
  • digitized collections

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