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HU 3900: Inquiry Seminar - Media Revolutions in History

Primary Sources

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.

Primary source materials can be found in a variety of locations, including within books, newspapers, article bibliographies, and archives or manuscripts collections. For popular reaction to events/issues, try searching the Letters to the Editor in a newspaper such as the New York Times.

Library Databases with Primary Sources

Examples of Websites with Primary Sources

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. 

Here are some examples of websites that can help you find primary sources:

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Sometimes collections of primary source documents are republished in books. Here are some strategies for finding books like these:

  • Search WPI Library Search for books about your topic and add keywords like journals, papers, letters, documents, photographs, primary sources, documentary history, or sourcebook to your search terms

Here are some examples of books containing primary sources:

WPI Archives

Archives and Special Collections at Gordon Library serves as the institutional memory of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and curates the university's collection of manuscripts, rare books, art, and objects. Our staff is committed to the preservation of the historical and cultural resources produced by WPI faculty, students, and staff while also providing support for primary source education and research. To ask a question about the archives, please fill out our contact form or e-mail archives@wpi.edu