Finding Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

A primary source is a record of events that are described or recorded by someone who either participated in or witnessed the events firsthand.

Examples include:

  • Newspaper accounts
  • Letters, Diaries, Notebooks
  • Creative Works, Music, Artwork
  • Interviews & Oral Histories
  • Propaganda
  • Maps
  • Clothing

How do I find primary sources?

There are several places to look for primary source materials. It will partly depend on what type of primary source material you might be looking for and the date range.

For example, if you are specifically interested in newspapers from a particular time, you can check out or our other Newspapers Databases.

In addition to the primary source databases at the University Libraries, you can also consider other online collections such as:

Or you can look for primary sources housed on the 4th floor of Belk Library and Information Commons as part of our Special Collections Research Center.

How do I find primary sources in the Special Collections Research Center?

The Special Collections Research Center provides access to a variety of primary sources through the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, the Stock Car Racing Collection, Rare Books & Manuscripts, and University Archives & Records Management Services. Primary sources can be searched for in the Digital Collections, Finding Aids, and library catalog. Additional resources are available on the Search Tools webpage.

Examples of collections include:

How do I cite primary sources?