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Research Help for History Students: Primary Sources

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

What is a Primary Source?

For the majority of papers you are asked to write, you will need to find primary sources to serve as your evidence in your paper and back up your argument. Primary sources are contemporary with the times they describe. That means they are written largely without the benefit of hindsight, by participants or witnesses to a historical moment or event, rather than by professional historians. Primary sources can be letters, diaries, newspaper articles, reports, photographs, financial records, etc.

If you are writing a paper about American women during World War II, a diary of a female factory worker during the war would be a perfect primary source to consult.

Examples of Primary Sources from Our Catalog

Primary Sources Explained

*Video created by UC San Diego Library

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