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WOMS313 Theory and Methods in Feminism

Primary Sources

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. 

                                  Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Search Tips 

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! 

Selected Materials from UD Special Collections

This brief list of selected materials from UD's Special Collections demonstrate the wide range of primary sources available to researchers.  This list includes examples of period "professional" literature, artists' books, literature, Delaware authors, personal narratives, broadsides and graphic collections.

Finding Current Primary Sources

It can often be challenging to locate current, contemporary primary sources for your research. Below are some types of primary sources and where you might find access to them. Typically, because these sources have been created recently, the best option is to see if you can see find them where they were produced. 

Types of Primary Sources: Where you can find them?
Social media Social media platforms
Interviews, News Articles, Op-Eds News outlets
Documentaries Library databases and search engines
Government reports Government websites


We have the following databases that have current documentaries on a variety of topics. You can also search for documentary videos in our catalog, DELCAT. 

Examples of Documentary Websites:

Consider the following questions and points when evaluating current primary sources. 


  • Who created this source? 
  • What authority do they have on the subject?
  • How do you know, based on your past experiences, that this person or organization has authority?


  • Where was this source published or posted?
  • Does the platform the source was published/posted in/on change perspective of the source?


  • Why was this source created? 
  • Who was the intended audience? 
  • Was there a sponsoring organization invested in its creation?


  • What is the main idea of the primary source?
  • What can you observe about the primary source?
  • Has the source been altered in any way from the original?


  • What questions could be answered by using this source?
  • How does this source fit into other scholarly narratives? Does it challenge those narratives?


  • What biases or assumptions might have influenced the author or creator?


  • How does this source fit into my knowledge about this topic?