Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HIST 3000: Historiography

Primary Source Research

What Are Primary Sources?

"Primary sources are materials produced by people or groups directly involved in the event or topic under consideration, either as participants or witnesses. These sources provide the evidence on which historians rely in order to describe and interpret the past...By examining primary sources, historians gain insights into the thoughts, behaviors, and experiences of the people of the past. 

Note: If you are using a collection of documents brought together in a single volume, the preface, introduction, and other materials written by the editor are considered secondary sources; however the documents themselves....are primary sources."

Taken from Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 8th ed (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2015), 9-10. 

Look at Primary Sources for Historical Research and Primary Resources at Yale for great overviews of different types of primary sources. 

Online Resources

American History

European & World History

Library Databases

Books with Primary Source Documents

Here's just a small sampling of books with primary source documents: