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History (Primary Sources Only)   Tags: documents, history, history_4296, primary_sources  

A guide to finding primary sources online and in libraries and archives at Temple, the country, and world.
Last Updated: Oct 17, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Primary Sources - Overview Print Page

Regional Primary Sources


Research Manuals

Book-length guides to locating and evaluating primary sources.

Click title to see full bibliographic record, including call #, in Diamond.

Click book jacket to view record on Amazon. Except where noted, these titles are only available in paper.

Cover Art
The Craft of Research - Wayne C. Booth; Gregory G. Colomb; Joseph M. Williams
Call Number: Q180.55.M4 B66 2008eb
ISBN: 0226065650
Publication Date: 2008
Access the full-text of this book online by simply clicking on its title, above.

Cover Art
The Historian's Toolbox: A Student Guide to the Theory and Craft of History - Robert C. Williams
Call Number: D16 .W62 2007
ISBN: 076562026X
See Part 2, "The Tools of History," section on "Sources and Evidence". Note Google Preview button in Diamond for online access to part of this book!

Cover Art
The Information-Literate Historian - Jenny L. Presnell
Call Number: D16.2 .P715 2007
ISBN: 0199926042
Publication Date: 2012-08-01
Authored by the History Librarian at the University of Miami, Ohio, The Information-Literate Historian is the only book specifically designed to teach today's history students how to successfully select and use sources-primary, secondary, and electronic-to carry out and present their research. Expanded and updated, the second edition of The Information-Literate Historian continues to be an indispensable reference for historians, students, and other readers doing history research. See especially Chapter 6, "The Thrill of Discovery: Primary Sources".

Cover Art
Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age: How to Locate and Evaluate Information Sources - Stebbins, Leslie F. (Leslie Foster)
Call Number: ZA3075 .S74 2006
ISBN: 1591580994
See Chapter 4, "Primary Sources: Online Tools and Digitized Collections". Note Google Preview button in Diamond for online access to part of this book!

Cover Art
Writing History in the Digital Age - Jack Dougherty; Kristen Nawrotzki
Call Number: D16.12 .W75 2013eb
ISBN: 9780472072064
Publication Date: 2013-10-28



What Are Primary Sources?

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research" (Source: Using Primary Sources on the Web, a website created by the History Section of the American Library Association designed to help researchers locate, evaluate, and properly cite online primary sources).

Scholars analyze and interpret primary sources in secondary works, particularly scholarly monographs (books) and peer-reviewed journal articles. Secondary sources need not be scholarly, however, and can include popular magazine and newspaper articles, non-academic biographies, textbooks, or websites. Please contact your professor or me if you are having difficulty differentiating between primary and secondary sources. Occasionally you might come across a reference to a "tertiary" source. Tertiary sources are essentially reference works; they list, index, summarize, or in some other way facilitate access to both primary and secondary sources. Examples of tertiary sources in history include Historical Abstracts and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Find Primary Sources at TULibraries: What Are Your Options?

Temple University Libraries provide access to numerous primary-source history databases. Explore them all from the Primary Sources - Europe and Primary Sources - United States sub-tabs of this guide. The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC)Urban Archives, and the Blockson Collection are all important archival repositories located on Temple's main campus.  Several major in-house digitization efforts have resulted in the online availability of thousands of images and manuscripts from these collections, all of which are available through our Digital Collections search page. The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PASCL) has a smiliar page with finding aides and a search feature. Find links to other area institutions with significant archival collections in the Philadelphia Area tab of this guide.

Digital reproductions of primary documents in American and European history are now relatively abundant online. Link to some of the best free portals -- EuroDocs, American Memory, etc. -- from the Primary Sources - Europe and Primary Sources - United States tabs of this guide. Recall that the vast majority of primary documents remain available only in paper. These can take the form of reproductions of letters and diaries published in commonly-held books or rare manuscripts available only in a single library or archive. Search the Diamond catalog to find primary sources in Paley and other Temple University Libraries. Look for records in which the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) include the word Sources as a subheading. When you see this subheading it means that you have found the record for a primary source located in the physical or online library. Note the call # to retrieve from Paley or the Library Depository. See the box below for additional details and search examples.

Find Primary Sources: Diamond, the Library Catalog

Search Diamond to find primary sources available through Temple University Libraries. Begin by taking just a few minutes to understand Library of Congress Subject Headings, or LCSH for short. Subject headings are "tags" applied by professional librarians to records in library catalogs. They are similar to but more precise and systematically applied than the tags you are probably already familiar with in blogs and Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and Flickr.

Such tags offer researchers accurate descriptions of books and other library resources. Critically, subject headings provide information about the type of work described: primary source, biography, bibliography, etc. Remember that the term Sources is used as a subheading in LCSH to identify primary-source material. Other primary-source subheadings include Personal Narratives, Correspondence, and Diaries.

Example: A researcher needs to find primary-source documents on the U.S. Civil War. The most relevant subject heading is:

United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.

A long and complicated "tag," granted, and not very intuitive! Fortunately, the researcher effectively needs to know only that Sources is used as a subheading to identify primary works. The following keyword searches, which take advantage of distinct search "facets" as described in the Find Books tab, reveal citations to books that contain U.S. Civil War primary documents.

  1. "Civil War" AND "United States" AND s:Sources
  2. "Civil War" AND "United States" AND s:Diaries
  3. Reconstruction AND s:Sources
  4. Gettysburg AND s:"Personal Narratives"
  5. Confederate AND s:Correspondence

    Note: In the examples above, placing "s:" before the search terms Sources, Diaries, Personal Narratives, and Correspondence instructs the catalog to return only records that contain those terms in the subject field; this technique improves search relevance but is optional.


      Guide Author

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      David C. Murray
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      More Options

      The following TULibraries' databases and other online resources will help researchers to find both paper and digital archives. Note that several of the links below lead to digital collections, virtual exhibits, and online finding aids produced by TULibraries' own Special Collections Research Center (SCRC).



        Serendip-o-matic logo

        Enter a block of text into the SERENDIP-o-MATIC engine, perhaps from an archival finding aid or bibliography, to discover other relevant archival collections. Includes results from such important collections as the Digital Library of America (DPLA), Europeana, Trove, and Flickr Commons. Read a review of Serendip-o-matic by Erin Lawrimore, an archivist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.



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