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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library

Senior Research and Composition: Final Paper: Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources?

Any document, image, or artifact created at the time of the topic being researched is first-hand evidence and thus a primary source.

Examples include:

  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Letters, Journals and Diaries
  • Opinion polls and statistics
  • Autobiographies and Memoirs
  • Works of visual art (painting, prints, photographs, video
  • Newspapers, Journals, and Magazines
  • Speeches and Interviews
  • Audio and Video recordings
  • Legal and Government documents
  • Artifacts (furnishings, clothing, etc)


Find Primary Sources on the Internet

Using Google or your preferred search engine,

type the phrase 

Documents or "primary sources"

and your topic search term(s).

Google Web Search

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.


Search Library Catalog

Primary Source Databases

To find primary sources from ancient to modern history:



See the course guide Finding Primary Sources for more databases and how to locate primary sources on the internet.