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HIST/HUM STUD 102: Foundations of Western Culture II

Kathleen Walkner

Primary Sources

A primary source is a document or piece of evidence written or created during the time period you are studying. A primary source allows you to examine evidence firsthand without being affected by other opinions.

Types of Primary Sources:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Memos/E-mails
  • Speeches (both the text of the speech & the giving of the speech)
  • Manuscripts
  • Autobiographies
  • Interviews
  • Patents
  • Laws, legislation, court rulings
  • Newspaper & magazine articles as an event happened
  • News footage
  • Raw data
  • Artifacts: buildings, clothes, jewelry, toys, fossils
  • Journal articles reporting original research or an experiment
  • Official records of governments, agencies, organizations: meeting minutes, reports, vital records (e.g., Census records)
  • Creative works: poetry, novels, drama, music, art, photography, movies, scripts, performances
  • Technical reports (i.e., accounts of work done on research projects)

Use Search@UW to Find Books for Your Primary Sources!

Note on Primary Sources

Finding primary sources for this time period can be a more a more difficult task than finding primary sources for more modern history where photography, diaries, and videos are available.

Keep in mind you may be able to utilize the primary sources found in some of your secondary sources. For example, you might find a map in a book from the time period you are studying or find an image of hieroglyphics you want to utilize. While the book would be a secondary source, those parts could count as primary sources. 

If you have questions about this or need clarification, ask a librarian or your instructor. 

Remember, if you are unable to find what you are looking for in the recommended resources below, click on the research help page to connect with a librarian.

Recommended Databases

Tip: For locating primary sources for earlier periods, using books written in the time period will be a great way to learn about life and conditions of the time. Use the database Project Gutenberg (located below) to find these works.

It will help if you have a book in mind that you want to find rather than browsing. For example, if you wanted a book written by Leonardo Da Vinci, I would look up the name of his books first in Google to search for the specific title or search by author to find them in the database. For browsing for relevant, titles, use Search@UW. 

Websites to look

Tip: For locating primary sources for earlier periods, using books written in the time period will be a great way to learn about life and conditions of the time. Use the database Project Gutenberg (located below) to find these works.

It will help if you have a book in mind that you want to find rather than browsing. For example, if you wanted a book written by Leonardo Da Vinci, I would look up the name of his books first in Google to search for the specific title or search by author to find them in the database. For browsing relevant, titles, use Search@UW. Navigate to the research help page of this guide if you need assistance!