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Immigration and the American Dream: ANTH 0831

a personal look at the immigrant experience as expressed through the immigrants' own voices

Finding Primary Sources for famous Individuals

To find primary sources such as autobiographies, journals, or other types of books for individual members of specific ethnic groups, use Library Search.

You will need to have the name of an individual. For example, Desi Arnaz is a famous Cuban-American best known for his role as the husband of Lucille Ball in the TV program I LOVE LUCY.  If you wanted to locate an autobiography about Desi Arnaz, you would do a subject search in Library Search and then select the Books & More section. You want to look for Desi Arnaz as the author. You can also look for the 2 relevant subject headings. The first, Arnaz, Desi, 1917-1986, has three books listed and the second, Arnaz, Desi, 1917-1986 -- Songs and music, has two:   




If you click the first subject heading, you will see a list of three titles. The first title A BOOK by DESI ARNAZ, is an autobiography and can be used as a primary source. The second is an FBI file on Desi Arnaz which can be read online. The third title is a biography about Lucy and Desi, which can be used to gather information about Desi Arnaz, but cannot be used as a primary source because the author is not writing about his own experience 

If you don't know the name of a famous person in your ethnic group, use Wikipedia's LIST OF AMERICANS BY ETHNICITY OR PLACE OF ORIGIN to find one.


Primary vs. Secondary Sources


  Humanities Sciences

Primary Source 

  • Original, first-hand account of an event or time period
  • Usually written or made during or close to the event or time period
  • Original, creative writing or works of art
  • Factual, not interpretive
  • Report of scientific discoveries
  • Results of experiments
  • Results of clinical trials
  • Social and political science research results
  • Factual, not interpretive

Secondary Source    

Picture of The Civil War dictionary

  • Analyzes and interprets primary sources
  • Second-hand account of an historical event
  • Interprets creative work
  • Analyzes and interprets research results
  • Analyzes and interprets scientific discoveries


  Humanities Sciences

Primary Sources



  • Diaries, journals, letters, and autobiographies
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (factual accounts)
  • Government records (census, marriage, military)
  • Photographs, maps, postcards, posters
  • Recorded or transcribed speeches
  • Interviews with participants or witnesses (e.g., The Civil Right Movement)
  • Interviews with people who lived during a particular time (e.g., genocide in Rwanda)
  • Songs, Plays, novels, stories
  • Paintings, drawings, and sculptures
  • Published results of research studies
  • Published results of scientific experiments
  • Published results of clinical trials
  • Proceedings of conferences and meetings

Secondary Sources



  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Literary Criticism
  • Book, Art, and Theater Reviews
  • Newspaper articles that interpret
  • Reference Books
  • Textbooks
  • Publications about the significance of research or experiments
  • Analysis of a clinical trial
  • Review of the results of several experiments or trials

Specific Examples

  Primary Source Secondary Source
Literature “Song of Myself” (Poem) Journal article about the poem’s historical importance
Psychology Results of clinical trial to treat ADD by modifying diet Book about ways to treat childhood ADD without drugs
Politics and Government U.S. Census Statistics Book about suburban population changes in U.S.
History Recorded interview with Choctaw American Indian Journal article about Native Americans who served in WWII
Social Science Diary of Anne Frank Book about diaries kept during the Holocaust
Art Photographs by Diane Arbus Magazine article about 20th century female photographers

By Susan Thomas, Evening and Weekend Librarian at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at CUNY

Primary Sources


Temple's newspaper databases provide direct full-text access to the back files of thousands of newspapers titles. Newspaper articles can be considered as primary sources if written at the time of the event.

Major Temple newspaper databases: If you have an article topic in mind, search one or more of the major newspaper databases listed (in alphabetical order) below.

Major dailies available full-text online through Temple:


Get Research Help

Profile Photo
Tom Ipri
Charles Library, Rm 375
Subjects: Anthropology