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Research Help for History Students: Finding Primary Sources

This guide has been designed to help history students with research.

Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources can be trickier to find than secondary.  You should always ask your professor or a librarian for help if you feel stuck.  However, here are some options for locating primary sources on your own.

Personal Journals, Diaries, Letters, and Memoirs

You should start off by seeing if the library has any personal journals, diaries, letters, or memoirs related to your topic, as long as they were written/created DURING the time period you are writing about.

In the library's catalog, try searching for your topic and the word diary, for example. If you were trying to find primary sources on the French Revolution, you could try searching French Revolution AND diary.

Mortensen Library Catalog

Primary Sources from our Databases

We have a few databases devoted to primary sources that might also be useful for your research.  Beyond journals, diaries, letters, memoirs, or newspaper articles, these databases also have manuscripts, images, and more.  

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Magazine and newspaper articles written during the time period you are researching can also be excellent primary sources.  We have a couple of databases that are specific to newspapers that you can look in to try and find articles written about your topic, during the time period you are interested in.

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