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Primary and Secondary Sources

This guide will explain what primary and secondary sources are and how to find them.

Search Strategies for Finding Primary Source Materials

Here are some helpful search terms for finding primary source materials in SouthernSearch, our online catalog, in the library databases, and on the web. Combine your concepts with "and" to retrieve relevant results:

Anecdotes, biography, case studies, cartoons, comic books, strips, correspondence, diaries, documentary films, interviews, laws, letters, manuscripts, maps, papers, personal narratives, photographs, portraits, public opinion, songs, music, sources, speeches. statutes

Sample searches:
Obama and interviews
Feminists and diaries
Vietnam War and foreign relations
United States and Constitution
Statesmen and speeches

Primary Sources in the Sciences

Check your articles carefully! Most research studies are considered primary sources. However, article called systematic reviews, or Meta-analysis can be either primary or secondary. If you working on an assignment and need primary and/or secondary articles, please consult your professor to determine the type of source. 

Finding Primary Source Articles in Databases

Use the search strategies in the "Search Strategies" box on the top of this page to retrieve primary source articles on your topic.

The following databases contain primary source materials:


You will find some primary source materials, such as research studies, in many of our databases. Use the link below to see a list of all of our databases. Use the dropdown labeled "All Subjects" to sort by a specific subject. 

Primary Source Documents on the Web

The web is a great place to find primary source documents on many subjects, especially history. See our guides on specific U.S. History topics:

Here are links to various sites containing primary sources relating to history, literature, people, religion, maps, politics, sciences, speeches, women,  etc.