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HU 3900: Inquiry Seminar: Working: Primary Sources

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 documents and artifacts from the time period under study, such as letters, diaries, photographs, newspaper articles, pamphlets, government records, songs, poems, and videos. 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.

On this page, you'll find information about:

Primary Sources: Library Databases

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. 

Examples of online primary source collections related to labor history:

Additional websites for finding primary sources (these collections are broader than those listed above but may still have relevant documents for your research):

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 e-mail or fill out their contact form

Primary Sources: Books at WPI

Sometimes collections of primary source documents are republished in books. To find books like these, search WPI Library Search for books about your topic and add keywords like journals, papers, letters, documents, primary sources, documentary history, or sourcebook to your search terms. 

Here are some examples of books containing reprinted primary sources:

Examples of Primary Source Documents