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Do-It-Yourself Library: Primary Sources

I Am Looking for Primary Sources

In the arts and humanities a primary source is a source created during the historical period being studied. It documents the subject of study in some way. In the sciences "primary source" refers to an original research study.

This page focuses on primary sources for the arts and humanities. Examples of such primary sources include: 

Newspaper accounts Letters, diaries, and scrapbooks
Government documents 
(research data, statistics, 
congressional transcripts, laws, etc.)
Personal accounts, autobiographies, memoirs
Images and museum artifacts Speeches
Data from scientific experiments Oral histories


Other types of information may also be primary sources if they are analyzed for their historical or cultural significance. You can use this tool from Library of Congress to Use this tool to record your responses to a primary source.


Video Explaining - Primary & Secondary Sources

This short video explains primary and secondary sources.

Library Databases with Primary Sources

The following databases are recommended for finding primary sources. Many also include secondary or tertiary sources.

Access to these online subscription resources is restricted to NWACC students, faculty, and staff. Please use your My NWACC Connection login credentials if prompted.

Online Free Primary Sources

Search Google Books.

If your topic relates to an event that occurred before 1925, there are likely relevant primary sources available in the public domain. Google Books has digitized and made available many such books.

Search for a specific work or for a general topic. Note, however, that Google Books also lists resources that are only available to preview. Look for resources with publication dates before 1925 and with a Read Preview link. The Advanced Book Search allows you to limit to Full view only books.

Screenshot of Google Books Advanced Search


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