Primary sources "include all materials produced by people. They include obvious sources like diaries, letters, speeches, government documents, contemporary publications, laws, police and court records, maps, newspapers, and photographs.
"Remember, however, that there are other primary sources too: public opinion polls, telephone directories, coins, inscriptions, advertisements, business records, works of art, city directories, poetry, music, buildings, statues, organizational minutes, railroad schedules, birth, marriage, and death records, novels, political debates, films, furniture, and tombstones. This list is far from exhaustive." (From the UMW History and American Studies' Primary Sources web page.)
While writing research papers, you may need to:
♦ List your sources in bibliographies or works cited, and
♦ Provide either footnotes or endnotes.
Here is a link to the UMW Libraries' Guide to Citing Resources.
When looking for primary sources related to any of the following topics, either click on these links or scroll down for reference books found on the first floor of Simpson Library:
Steps to Find Primary Sources
Notes and Bibliographies
Researchers often utilize—and cite—original resource material when writing their secondary works. Consult the bibliographies and notes (footnotes or end notes) in these books and journal articles.
You can find periodical articles (and dissertations, another source of primary material) through the databases listed in the "Locating Articles" section of this guide. To ascertain the Library's print and online holdings of periodicals, use the catalog for print publications (and some online ones) and the Journal Finder for online periodicals (from the Library home page, click on "Find a Journal" in the "How Do I?" column at the right or click on "Journals" on the blue tabs at the top).
Also, a volume (usually the last) of many subject encyclopedia sets is frequently devoted to significant documents and related primary sources.
Primary resources are often collected and reprinted as entire books. For example:
How do you identify collections of primary sources such as these? A subject heading in the Library’s online catalog with the subdivision "sources" indicates primary sources on that subject (e.g., "Indians of North America--Government Relations--Sources"). You will see other subdivisions as well. Ones often used include:
You can also try just looking up a person’s name as a subject heading. “Lewis, Meriwether” brings up The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Here's how you can use the library catalog to locate books of original sources:
1. Go to the Advanced Search page of the library catalog.
2. On the first line, type your topic in the search box.
3. On the second line, type the subject subdivision for the type of primary source that you want to find. For example, "sources." If you want other types of primary sources, you can type more than one. For example: sources OR diaries OR "personal narratives" OR letters OR memoirs OR correspondence. (The quotation marks around "personal narratives" ensures that these two words will be searched as a phrase. Be sure to type OR in capital letters.)
4. Click "search."
You can also do an Advanced Book Search in Google Books and narrow your results to books published within specific year or years.
Magazine and journal articles can be primary sources. For example, according to the abstract, Charles G. Westwater's "Finishing off the Japanese Navy" (Naval History, August 2015) is "an account of the July 24-28, 1945 Naval airstrike . . . against Kure Naval Base in Japan. The author served as radioman / gunner in a Helldiver bomber piloted by Ensign Harold Meyer. It also details their bombing run against Hyakurigahara Airfield near Tokyo, Japan on July 10."
How would you find such works? Follow a process similar to the one used to find book-length primary sources. In the Library databases you can type your topic on one line and on the next type something like "sources or diaries or interviews or correspondence or letters or memoirs," etc. Be creative! Add as many words as you can think of, separating them by "or."
See the databases listed on the "Locating Articles" section of this guide, such as
American Antiquarian Historical Society Collections (1691-1877) and
American Periodicals Series Online (1741 to 1900).
You can also search multiple EBSCO databases. Click on one of them, such as Academic Search Complete, click on "Choose Databases," and then select additional (or all) of the databases maintained by EBSCO. Also try a Quest Advanced search.
Newspapers and News Archives
Newspapers and news archives are excellent sources of primary material. See the section of this guide on newspaper articles and news archives (and especially the major UMW guide, Newspaper Articles).
Online Resources (Surface Web)
Dozens of websites are annotated in the "Uncovering Primary Sources" section of this subject guide.
You can find numerous primary sources through online searches. Try a Google Advanced Search using your topic and perhaps "primary sources" or "documents" or some of the terms mentioned above. See also Google Tricks on the "Navigating the Internet" tab of this subject guide.
Want additional material? Consult the four volumes of Milestone Documents in World History: Exploring the Primary Documents That Shaped the World (REFB D5 .M55 2009). This work is also available online through Salem History.
Vanderbilt Television News Archive
An extensive archive of television news. "We have been recording, preserving and providing access to television news broadcasts of the national networks since August 5, 1968."
World News Network.
Includes hundreds of general and specialized news websites from around the world.
This "worldwide viewing community" covers news and politics, music, entertainment, science and technology, sports, film and animation, people, and education.