Where can I find primary sources?
A primary source is an item that was created during the period being studied. Examples of primary sources include:
- Newspaper accounts
- Letters, diaries and scrapbooks
- Government documents (research data, statistics, congressional transcripts, laws
- Personal accounts, autobiographies, memoirs
- Images and museum artifacts
- Data from scientific experiments
- Oral histories
Here are a few ways to find primary sources:
Find primary sources in books
Books often contain reproductions of letters, speeches, photographs, artwork, and other kinds of primary sources. Search for books as you normally would, but add keywords to find those that may contain primary sources.
Include "sources" or "documents" in your search ("Civil War documents") for any type of primary source. Try other terms for specific kinds of sources:
- Letters: "correspondence" or "letters" (Civil War correspondence, French Revolution letters)
- Diaries: "diary" (Civil War diary, woman diary France)
- Oral history: "interview" or "oral history" or "speeches" (Cold War interview, Japanese internment oral history, Malcolm X speeches)
- Pamphlet: "pamphlet" or 'brochure" (pamphlet chastity, rights of women pamphlet)
- Photographs or artwork: "pictorial works" (Chicago pictorial works, World's Fair pictorial works)
- Personal accounts: "autobiography" or "memoir"
Use primary source databases
The library has a number of databases that contain primary source content such as newspapers, images, and government information.
Find online collections
Many museums, archives, and libraries have digitized their collections of primary sources and have made them available on the web. The Fresno State Library has compiled a list of digital archives on a wide variety of topics. You can search for more with Google or another search engine by including "primary sources", "digital collections", or "digital library" along with keywords related to your topic and/or the types of sources you are looking for.
See the Library's Primary Sources Research Guide for more, including:
Didn't find the information you need? Contact us via chat, email, or phone. We're happy to help!