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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library

U.S. History Spring Research Paper: Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Sources created by those who lived it

Any document, image, or artifact created at the time of the topic being researched is a primary source. Examples include: eyewitness accounts, autobiographies and memoirs, diaries, letters, speeches, reports, newspapers, household and day-to-day objects, clothing, works of art, architecture, and photographs.

Please note: primary source documents are a reflection of the time and culture in which they were created and may contain language or images that are considered offensive today.


Tips for Citing Primary Sources in NoodleTools

If you have any questions,
see Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti
OR email us at
We're here to help!

Find Primary Sources Using Advanced Search in RhinoCat

RhinoCat is the Library's automated catalog of books, ebooks,
and other library materials.


CLICK HERE TO DO AN ADVANCED SEARCH which will identify books and ebooks, including Reference Sources, containing primary sources: 

  • In the first Advanced Search line change Keyword to Subject and paste in (sources OR diaries OR narratives) including parentheses ( )
  • In the second Keyword search line, replace the xxxxx with your search term(s). NOTE: If your keyword term is a phrase, use quotation marks around the phrase: "Berlin Wall"


Original Primary Source Magazines in the Library

The Library has the following original journals shelved at the end of the Reference collection

Thank you for handling these fragile bound volumes with care! Want a copy of an article or advertisement? Please take a picture or scan the image using your smartphone.

Statistics and Polls

The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion, 1935-2010. Ref HN90 .P8 G35 - HN90 .P8 G35  20 vols

Historical Statistics of the United States: From Earliest Times to the Present [colonial times to 1970]. eBook on the U.S. Census website.

Presidential Elections, 1789-2004. Ref JK524 .P6783 2005 

Public Opinion, 1935-1946 / edited by Hadley Cantril. eBook on the website, Internet Archive.

This is Who We Were Decades series. "Each volume combines census and other government data with personal narrative, advertisements, clippings, and so forth to provide a portrait of a decade" (Library Journal). Volumes cover decades from 1880 - 2010; the volume for the 1930s is titled A companion to the 1940 census

Vital Statistics on the Presidency: Washington to Clinton. Ref JK518 .R34 1996.

Find Primary Sources on the Internet

The Black Past: Remembered & Reclaimed The "Google" of African American history includes an online encyclopedia, primary sources, and much more.

Digital History An extensive documents collection is part of this award-winning American history website from the College of Education at the University of Houston.

Digital Public Library of America: Primary Source Sets A vast collection of free content from American libraries, archives, and museums.  

Discovering American Women's History Online Digital collections of primary source materials browseable by subject, place, time period, and source type.

Finding Primary Sources is the launch page to the vast collection of American history primary source content available online at the Library of Congress.

LIFE Magazine Archive Published from late Nov 1936 to 1972, LIFE was "the photographic magazine that chronicled the 20th century."

The New York Times TimesMachine Over 150 years of New York Times journalism, as it originally appeared. From Volume 1, Number 1 (1851) to 2002. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit of digital subscribers so be sure to sign up here to access the library's digital NYT account.

Presidential Libraries and Museums offer digital document archives and museums full of important Presidential artifacts from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama.

Social History for Every Classroom a database of primary documents, classroom activities, and other teaching materials in U.S. history. Keyword search or browse by theme (Civil Rights and Citizenship, Immigration and Migration, Labor activism, etc) or by historical era. 


Find Primary Sources in Online Subscription Databases

Important tips for searching for primary sources in historical news / periodical databases:
  • Always limit your search to the date range relevant to your topic.
  • Try searching terms, phrases, etc. that were commonly used at the time in relation to your topic.
  • Look for document-type limiters that may improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc
Resource Allows NoodleTools Export  Citations can be exported from this source to NoodleTools.



History Databases Also Containing Primary Sources


PLEASE NOTE: Do not copy and paste complete citations from electronic sources. NoodleTools cannot generate footnotes from copied and pasted citations.


To cite a Primary Source, first choose the NoodleTools option that best describes where you found it:

  • Database = an electronic source found in a Taft Subscription Database such as Gale eBooks.
    • You can export citations from many of our databases. Look for Resource Allows NoodleTools Export  next to the database name.
    • If you find a document in a Taft Subscription Database that doesn't have the export feature, you will need to create an original citation.
    • You must provide the permanent URL for your source. Look for any of the following on the page: permalink, persistent link, stable link, durable link, "Get link", Cite, Citable Link. 
  • Website = a document found on the Websites page of the course guide, found through a web directory like SweetSearch, or a search engine such as Google. 

  • Print or In Hand = a document found in a book in the library. For example: in a reference book or a secondary source.

Next, determine what kind of primary source you are citing:

  • Look at the list of options in NoodleTools. Is it a newspaper article, a speech, a letter, or another item listed? If so, choose that item type.
  • If you are not sure, you can use Anthology / Collection which enables you to cite a source found within another source.
You can also see (or email) Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti and we'll help you figure it out.