History

Resources for History Research

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Primary Sources for History

Primary sources are materials that provide firsthand testimony to a subject under investigation. Researchers often use these firsthand accounts of specific events to understand events from the viewpoint of people living during that time period. Primary sources include letters, diaries, photographs, newspaper articles, and pamphlets. Primary sources also include writings and recordings by witnesses who experienced the events or conditions being documented. For example, oral histories, autobiographies, and memoirs are primary sources.

Where to Look for Primary Sources

Primary source materials can be found in a variety of locations, including within books, newspapers, article bibliographies, and archives or manuscripts collections. 

Primary Sources: Library Databases

Primary Sources: Examples of Helpful Websites

To find primary sources via Google, try adding keywords like journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources, or documentary history to your search terms. Primary sources can often be found on library, museum, and government websites. 

Curation, Preservation, and Archives at WPI

The Gordon Library Archives are a great resource for primary sources. To learn more about the Archives' collections or to schedule a visit to the Archives, please call 508-831-6112 or e-mail archives@wpi.edu

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Many primary source documents are republished in books, or even referenced within books on historical topics. To find these books, search Summon for books about your topic and add keywords like journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources, or documentary history to your search terms.