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Political Science: Primary Sources

library and other key resources in this discipline

Select Primary Source Documents -- North America & Latin America

Foreign Relations & Foreign Policy -- Select Primary Source Documents

Primary Source Materials Online

Finding Primary Source Materials in the Library Catalog

  • For documents of other countries, translated into English, try searching the library catalog by keywords "[country] foreign relations sources" and limit language to English.  Some examples of titles available in print:​
    • Documents of German History--annotated excerpts from official and autobiographical documents
    • Documents of Soviet-American Relations--4 volumes covering 1917-1945
    • War and Diplomacy: the making of the Grand Alliance; documents from Stalin's archives--includes telegrams and drafts of treaties


What is a primary source?

"Primary source"
describes material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied that was created in the time under study



  • an artifact, a document, a recording
  • new scientific data, results, and theories
  • official reports, speeches, pamphlets, posters, or letters by participants, and official election returns
  • records created by organizations, such as registers of births, tax records, charters, other legal documents, etc.
  • eyewitness accounts, oral interviews or documents created by a person with direct knowledge of a situation
  • diaries, films, biographies, leading philosophical works, scientific works
  • fictional sources such as novels or plays
  • physical objects like photographs, newsreels, coins, paintings or buildings

Secondary sources:

  • cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources

Note: a primary source may at times be treated like a secondary source

Questions to ask

Primary Sources word cloud

  • What is the tone?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the material?
  • What assumptions does the author make?
  • What are the authors bases (including conclusions)?
  • Does the author agree or disagree with other authors of the subject?
  • Does the content agree with what you know or have learned about the subject?
  • Where was the source made? Does it favor particular outcome?
  • What is the bias?

Additional Primary Source Guides

Additional Links