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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library


Senior Research and Composition: History's "Great" Events: Primary Sources

Primary Source

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.

 

NoodleTools Tips for Citing Primary Sources

Find Primary Sources in RhinoCat

RhinoCat is the Library's automated catalog of books, ebooks, DVDs, and other library materials. Many books and reference sources, print and electronic, contain primary sources. 

  • To find writings, speeches, and more by a person related to your topic
    • Do an Author search using your person's name to find books, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies written by that person.
    • Do a Keyword search of your person's name to identify writings, interviews, speeches in anthologies and collections.
  • To find documents relating to your topic
    • Copy and paste the following exact word string into the basic keyword search box:
      • su,wrdl: sources or su,wrdl: diaries or su,wrdl: personal narratives and kw,wrdl: xxxxx
      • Substitute your topic or topic phrase for xxxxx
  • Additional terms useful for locating primary sources are: correspondence, interviews, speeches, and statistics.

Library Catalog Search

Search Library Catalog

Visit Library Catalog Page

Find Primary Sources on the Internet

Combine your topic search term(s) with the phrase documents or "primary sources" 
Google Web Search

For example: to find primary sources on the 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas (still the deadliest natural disaster in US history)

We'd love to help!
See Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti
OR email us at 
spadgett@taftschool.org  
  taylorp@taftschool.org
rpreviti@taftschool.org
We're here to help!

Historical Newspaper / Periodical Databases

When searching for primary sources in newspaper / periodical databases:

  • Always limit your search to the date range relevant to your topic.
  • Search terms, phrases, etc. that were commonly used at the time in relation to your topic.
  • Look at other limiters on the advanced search page that might improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, essay, feature, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc.

NoodleTools Tips for Citing Primary Sources

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

 

For a new citation, click on +New Source.

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

  • Database = a document found in a Taft Subscription Database such as The New York Times, 1851-2014.
    • 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", or Cite.
  • Website = a document on a website found through 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.