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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Varieties of Research Experience

Primary Sources

Do you need primary sources?

While many projects and papers only require secondary sources (research articles and books which evaluate information secondhand), often you need some information from the "horse's mouth" which is a primary source or firsthand account. Do you know what type of information you need?

What are primary sources?

Original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. May include letters, diaries, manuscripts, journals, speeches, newspapers, interviews, memoirs, government documents, photographs, audio recordings, film or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, and tools.

Where do I find primary sources?

There are multiple primary source databases available through duPont Library. If you are more interested in Sewanee-specific primary sources, then you'll want to be sure to visit our University Archives & Special Collections.

Types of Primary Resources

This is a list of the most common types of primary resources in history.  When searching for sources, you might watch for these terms to help you figures out if you have found a primary resource.  You might also use these terms in your searches to help focus on a particular type of source or narrow down a large list of results.

  • advertisements
  • autobiography/autobiographies
  • correspondence
  • description and travel
  • diary/diaries
  • documents
  • early works to 1800
  • interview/interviews
  • journal
  • letters
  • pamphlets
  • personal narratives
  • trials
  • sources
  • speeches