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Bruder - GSTR 210 (spring 2022)

What is a primary source?

Primary sources are documents, artifacts, or data created during the specific time period being studied. Primary sources in the Humanities focus on original documents or accounts contemporary to a specific event or an individual’s life. Terms such as “eyewitness” or “firsthand” are also commonly used to describe these sources. Autobiographical accounts written at a later date are also considered primary sources. Letters, diaries, journal entries, public records as well as contemporaneous newspapers articles offer solid examples of this type of primary source.

Online Primary Sources Collections

Locating primary sources and documents in the library catalog

Primary source materials are part of the Hutchins Library collection of books, journals, magazines and databases. However, primary sources are seldom labeled as primary sources – this type of material must be combed out of the collection at large. This task is not always easy and can be time-consuming.

The Hutchins Libary catalog can facilitate the discovery of certain kinds of primary source material. Simply incorporate terms like as “papers,” “documents,” “sources,” “letters” or “personal narratives” into the catalog keyword and subject searches. An author search can sometimes produce primary sources as well (i.e. books written by the historical figure in question.) However, using the library catalog to effectively locate primary source materials may require a librarian’s assistance and expertise.

Possible KEYWORD searches

  • Union Church records
  • Kentucky Derby poetry
  • John G. Fee papers

Possible SUBJECT HEADING searches

  • Richmond, Battle of, Richmond, Ky., 1862. 
  • Women coal miners--Appalachian Region--Interviews
  • Church of Christ, Union (Berea, Ky.) 

Possible AUTHOR searches

  • Boone, Daniel, 1734-1820. 
  • Fee, John G.