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Tips for Finding Primary Sources

Your best bets for finding primary sources from the library, plus step by step tips to save you time and get the sources you need.

What are Primary Sources?

""Primary sources are records created at the time of an event or experience, or as told by people who were present at the event such as:

  • letters
  • diaries
  • government documents
  • photographs
  • oral histories
  • artifacts
  • films
  • works of literature
  • maps

Search Tips


Search OneSearch for primary sources in books, eBooks and other sources. There are a few things you can try to make it easier to pull up primary sources. Here's how:

Historical Figures

In OneSearch you can search to see if we have anything written by historical figures. These would be primary sources, as opposed to sources written about the historical figures.

  1. Go to Advanced Search
  2. Change Any field to Author/Creator and contains to is (exact)
  3. Type in the name of the historical figure, with last name first like this: jefferson, thomas
  4. Hit Search

Example: Try Author/Creator Thomas Jefferson

Historical Events

For events try adding the name of the event and one of the terms below.

Example: Try something like "american revolution" AND eyewitness or Dred Scott AND documents.

Use the terms below with of or from with the name of an individual or event.

  • archives
  • autobiography
  • correspondence
  • documents
  • sources
  • eyewitness
  • first hand account
  • journals
  • narratives
  • oral history
  • papers
  • writings

Guides with Primary Sources


COM Library has Guides that include primary resources to make it easier for you to find for your subject.

Top Databases

More Databases

"" The databases listed below have many or exclusively primary sources. Britannica Academic and MasterFile Premier have mainly secondary sources, but some primary sources can be found. Primary sources from our databases include maps, images, correspondence, journals, census records, archival films, newsreels and much more.