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CI 3554 Investigating the past and Present: Primary Sources

Primary Sources in Library Databases

Best Bets:

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

The best way to find primary sources in the library catalog is by using Library of Congress Subject Headings, which often include the following words:

  • sources
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • interviews
  • personal narratives
  • speeches
  • papers of..

However these subject headings are not intuitive, therefore it is best that you do a Keyword search for your topic and one of the words above. Examples:

  • women sources
  • nineteenth century women diaries etc.

Once you find a title of interest, open the record and link to similar sources by clicking on the appropriate subject heading.

Writing Resources

Belk Library Citation Guidelines Page
Links to examples of MLA, APA, and Chicago Citation Styles

The Owl at Purdue
Offers information on the entire writing process from conducting research to citation styles and grammar.

Appalachian State University Writing Center
Free service that works with writers on a variety of projects: papers for academic courses; masters and senior thesis chapters; personal essays for job, graduate school, and law school applications.

Duke Libraries Guide to Research
Provides guidance during the research process and stresses the importance of properly citing resources to avoid plagiarism. 

What are Primary Sources?

A primary information source is a record of events that are described or recorded by someone who either participated in or witnessed the events firsthand.

Examples include newspaper accounts, letters, diaries, notebooks, and interviews. 

Primary Sources on the Internet

American Memory
Primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. More than 5 million items from more than 90 historical collections. Includes Words and Deeds in American History.

Digital Library on American Slavery
Collection from UNC-Greensboro Library. Detailed information on about 150,000 individuals, including slaves, free people of color, and whites.

Documenting the American South
Primary sources on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century.

Ohio State's site for online history resources, mostly US History.

Links to the Past 
"Information and news from the National Park Service programs in archeology, ethnology, historic landscapes, historic structures, history, and museum management. Includes good information relating to the American Civil War."

Making of America 
Digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. 

The Valley of the Shadow
Residents of Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, chronicle their experiences in the American Civil War. Includes letters, diaries, newspapers, military records, photographs, church records, census records, and pensions.

Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs
Prints & Photographs Division includes photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. Particularly rich in materials documenting the history of the United States.

National Archives Experience
Browse hundreds of photographs, documents, and film clips.