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History: Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources are original documents or artifacts created during the time period being studied. They often include firsthand or eyewitness accounts or have an inside view of a particular event.

Original documents include advertisements, artwork, autobiographies, diaries, government documents (bills, laws, congressional hearings, etc.), interviews, letters, newspaper articles, official records, oral histories, photographs, posters, raw research data, speeches, etc.

Subscription Digital Archives

Primary Sources Online

As always, use discretion before relying on websites. Verify that the source is what it says it is by searching for the title elsewhere. When in doubt: check with your professor. 

Primary Source Images

Government Documents

Shenandoah University Archives

The Huffer-McAdams Memorial Archives, known as the University Archives, is on the second floor of Smith Library. It houses the Shenandoah Collection of archival materials relating to the history of the university. Access is available by appointment.

Examples of materials in the archives include annual reports and financial statements, accreditation self-studies, the Zynodoa yearbook, and publications by current and former faculty and alumni, as well as books and materials concerning the history and development of the university.

Searching the SU Library Catalog

Search for all types of resources at Shenandoah and beyond

Advanced Search

Use better keywords! These terms can help you find primary sources:

  • sources, archives, archival sources
  • personal narratives, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies
  • letters, correspondence
  • interviews
  • pamphlets
  • maps
  • speeches

Example: "civil war" memoir​​

Try Advanced Search

Follow these steps to begin searching for primary sources:

  • Click the Advanced Search link above.
  • Enter your topic word(s) in the first search box.
  • Enter an appropriate keyword such as "sources" or "diaries" in the second box.
  • Try changing the second drop-down box to "Identifier; Subject" to see if this improves your results.

Depending on what limits you choose, you may retrieve a wide range of results, including archival collections, books, ebooks, and databases at other institutions to which SU may not have access. However, the results may also include freely available websites, which may be of particular interest.

Just follow the links in the catalog records to find the material you are interested in. If you locate a book, journal, or microfilmed item in WorldCat that SU does not hold, do not hesitate to request it through interlibrary loan.

Using Google Advanced Search for Primary Sources

Primary Source Research Guides

These guides from other universities contain dozens of links to primary source materials. You will not have access to everything.