Answered By: Kimberly Boyd Last Updated: Jan 29, 2017 Views: 123
Hello! I would suggest that you read the instructions below in order to begin thinking about primary resources.
Think About Your Topic:
Once you have decided upon a topic and have gathered some information about the background of your topic, including the key people, places, events, and dates involved, you can start to think about finding primary sources. Think about these questions in order to determine what types of information you will be searching for:
- What types of documents would have been created during the event or time period I am researching? (Government documents, newspapers, diaries, business reports, etc.?)
- Whose perspective am I looking for? (civilian, soldier, politician , woman, slave?)
Manuscript collections or archives of organizational records often include some of the following keywords in their titles or content descriptions. By combining these words with words that describe your topic you are more likely to find primary sources:
- collection or collected works
- archive or archives
- personal narratives
An example of this type of search is "United States Civil War" AND diaries.
Search by Author
To find diaries, letters, autobiographies, etc. search a person's name as an author which will give you results written by the person rather than results about them.
Books and Articles
Many secondary souces will include a Works Cited or Bibliography of the sources used by the author. Primary sources are frequently listed in these bibliographies.
Many of the databases allow you to limit your search to document types and to primary source types in the advanced search screen. For instance, in the database Academic Search Complete, go to the advanced search screen:
Once you are in the advanced search screen, scroll down and you will see document types. You can choose to search for letters and speeches, both of which are types of primary sources. It will look like this:
You may also search by primary source types. It will look like this:
Some helpful websites are the Library of Congress' American Memory which you can access here: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html and the University of Oklahoma's site that includes links to the texts of many important historical documents which you can find here:http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/. Here you can find important US congressional documents and debates: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html. The George Washington papers are here: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gwhome.html and this is a pretty thorough page with links to many historical websites from AmericanRevolution.org: http://www.americanrevolution.org/histlinks.html.
Also, always start your research by going to the library's libguides. The URL for the history libguide is libguides.brenau.edu/history. Going to the articles tab in this libguide will give you access to the databases that the librarians recommend you use when doing historical research. Another helpful libguide is the Georgia History Primary Sources libguide which you can reach by going here: libguides.brenau.edu/GaHistoryPrimarySources.