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Finding and Using Primary Sources: Getting Started

Guide to finding primary historical sources online, in print, and in archival collections.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide researchers with a rich array of materials from which they can better understand a time period or a particular issue. Primary sources are materials that were created during the time that you are studying or by someone who was alive at a particular time who is describing their own experiences and direct observations.

Examples of primary sources include: newspapers, magazines, speeches, letters and correspondence, memoirs, diaries, photographs, political cartoons, records and publications of governments and businesses, and objects.

This guide will help you learn how to find primary sources in the UVM Libraries collection both in print and online. Use the tabs along the type to explore recommended resources and methods for locating different types of sources.

General Starting Points

Using Catalogs to Find Primary Sources

Numerous primary sources in the form of older print materials and reprinted rare materials can be located in the UVM Collection and beyond by using Library Catalogs.

Library Catalogs (such as the UVM Library Catalog or WorldCat) use predefined terms to describe primary sources. Among the most commonly used terms are:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Documents
  • Interviews
  • Letters
  • Personal Narratives
  • Sources

When searching for materials on a topic in Catalogs use keywords to describe the topic and a term in the subject line to describe the type of material you want to find:

Catalog Example