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Using Primary Sources

What Kind of Primary Sources are you Looking for?

Depending on your discipline, you should be looking for a specific type of primary sources. Sometimes primary sources are documents, accounts, and publications from a particular time period. Things like:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Letters
  • Advertisements
  • Photos
  • Journals
  • Speeches

For other disciplines, the primary sources you're looking for are original research or materials like:

  • Statistics/data
  • original research/experiments
  • original artwork, poetry or prose

There are always exceptions to these rules. For more information, check out our guide covering primary and secondary sources. If you're not sure what kind of primary sources you need, check with your professor for clarification.

Historic Primary Sources

Depending on your topic, these might a bit tricky for you to find. While some of these documents may be published into books, or available in our databases, a majority of them will be found in special collections and archives. Recently, more archives have started to digitize their collections, but not all of them.

The Mack Library's Special Collection focuses on primary sources pertaining to Brethren history, Shenandoah Valley history, and the Civil War. But, you may be able to find sources covering additional topics. Contact our Special Collections Librarian to see if we have any materials related to your topic.

Below are examples of some freely accessible online digital collections from other libraries.

Data/Statistics and Original Research

Some assignments might require research data, statistics, or another kinds of original research.

Some data sets might be available on the web. Look for government or international organizations (like the UN or World Bank), or for non-profit organizations who might have collected the data. 

Original Research articles can also be sources for primary source information and can be found in many of our databases. 

Below are links to example databases (that contain original research articles) and example data/statistics websites.