Skip to main content

Tutt Library Research Guides

HY200 Topics in History: Urban History: Primary Sources

Learn More About Primary Sources

Primary Sources at Yale defines and explains the importance of primary sources along with a series of questions for evaluating documents.

The National History Day Research Roadmap provides a good discussion about the definition and use of primary sources.

Evaluating Primary Sources

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages from Cornell University offers an excellent guide for evaluating primary sources. 

Citing Primary Sources

The following sites offer guides to citing primary sources in the Chicago style:

Library of Congress

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Citation at a Glance: Primary Source from a Web Site (Diana Hacker)

What is a Primary Source?

Video produced by the University of California, San Diego's Social Sciences & Humanities Library.

More About Primary Sources

"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format." -- Yale University

Examples of primary sources include

  • Artifacts
  • Autobiographies
  • Capitivity Narratives
  • Correspondence
  • Court proceedings
  • Diaries
  • Government records
  • Letters
  • Magazines
  • Maps
  • Memoirs
  • Newspapers
  • Oral Histories
  • Pamphlets
  • Papers
  • Personal Narratives
  • Photographs
  • Records
  • Songs
  • Speeches

     World War I Posters         
    CC Special Collections

 

Searching for Primary Sources

To find primary sources, try using these terms in keyword searches:

  • Autobiography
  • Capitivity narratives
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Document
  • Letters
  • Memoirs
  • Oral History
  • Papers
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Records
  • Sources
  • Speeches
Examples

Keyword Searches

slavery and speeches
women and diaries
colorado and oral history

Author Searches

Lincoln, Abraham
Temperance Society
United Nations

Use a Secondary Source to Find a Primary Source

A bibliography from a good secondary source is a great way to identify primary sources.

Keyword Thesaurus

Use all variations of a keyword.

Words change over time. Today we say Civil War but, in the past, it has been called the

  • American Civil War
  • War between the States
  • War of Secession
  • War of the Rebellion

If you searched only the term Civil War, you might miss valuable documents written during a different era.

The Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies thesaurus will help you find variations of keywords and subject headings.

Tutt Library, Colorado College      Research Help Desk: 719-389-6662, Texting: 719-387-5441, E-mail: tuttref@ColoradoCollege.edu