History Research Guide
The Library of Congress defines primary sources as actual records that have survived from the past as opposed to secondary sources which are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened.
Examples of primary sources include:
- Personal narratives
- Photographs, paintings
- Clothing, jewelry, archaeological artifacts
- Travel and eyewitness accounts
- Government documents
- Personal papers
- Minutes of meetings
- Newspaper articles contemporary to event or person
Examples of secondary sources include:
- Magazine articles
Primary sources come in different formats including:
- Personal correspondence or papers, and manuscripts in archives and libraries
- Reprinted in published sources such as books, collections of letters, diaries, memoirs. To find primary sources in the libraries' online catalog use subject keyword search for your topic and add one of the words from the list above:
For example: Holocaust diaries, Civil War sources, Slavery pamphlets
Or use mixed keyword search. For example: Presidents memoirs, American West travel account.
- Online databases through Libraries' website (UT EID required) e.g.,
- American Civil War: Letters and Diaries, 1855-1875.
- American West, 1722-1939.
- Declassified Documents Reference System, 1945-2000.
- Early American Imprints (Evans), 1639-1800.
- Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures, and the Environment
- Early English Books Online (EEBO), 1473 - 1700.
- Empire Online, 1492-2007.
- India, Raj and Empire, 1615-1947.
- Nineteenth Century Collections Online
- North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories, 1840 – 1950.
- North American Women's Letters and Diaries, 1700 - 1950.
- Sabin Americana, 1500 - 1926.
- Women and Social Movements, 1600 - 2000.