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MAN 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)

Search@UW - Search Books, Articles and More

Book search

Searching Tip

Books are great places to look for primary sources! Historians may have already put together collections of primary sources in a book for you. You might try looking for books containing sermons, military histories, government publications, etc. You may even come across a book written by someone from the time period you are studying.

Click here to see an example search (Advanced Search) in Search@UW, combining terms for types of primary sources along with a specific event or time period. 

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

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 above under the "religious writings and literature" database list) 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!