HSS 202 - Revolutions: Primary Sources

Primary Source Types

  • Autobiographies
  • Diaries/Journals
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Travel Accounts
  • Messages and Papers
  • Government Documents
  • Magazine/Newspaper Articles
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Other Non-Text Materials

Primary & Secondary Sources

Primary Source vs. Secondary Source

A primary source is a document that shows direct, immediate or firsthand knowledge of a subject or event. It is a document written at the time or on the scene where an event occurred.

Secondary sources are those writings without direct knowledge of a topic or event. These include biographies, monographs, and general periodical articles. Secondary sources are written by people who did not witness or experience an event but have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. Writers often use primary sources in their writing of secondary sources!


***To cite these sources in NT, choose "Where is it"? --> Database "What is it"? --> Newspaper.  This will give you the correct form for your source citation.

Finding Primary Sources on the Web

Finding primary sources on the web will require that you evaluate the results of your searches.  If you conduct a Google search, try using Google Scholar instead of the basic Google search window.  This will automatically filter out a lot of results that aren't appropriate for academic work.  Also, look for websites such as government institutions, museums, and organizations which have been in existence for awhile.  A few examples are below.

***To cite these sources in NT, choose "Where is it"? --> Website, "What is it"? --> Webpage (or whatever the object you find here may be, such as "letter" or "work of visual art").  If you have questions, please ask a librarian.

Search the OWHL Catalog for Primary Sources

   Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Catalog


When searching for primary source at the OWHL be sure to add the phrase "primary source" to your search. For example if you are looking for primary sources for Thomas Jefferson, your search would look like this: "Thomas Jefferson" and "primary source"