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Primary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

DEFINTION: Primary sources are original sources created at the time an event occurs and are directly associated with their producer (or user). They serve as the raw materials researchers use to analyze and interpret the past.

Examples include:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Newspapers
  • Government Documents
  • Photographs
  • Novels
  • Interviews
  • Photographs
  • Speeches
  • Clothing 

This is just a sampling of what can be considered a primary source.

Tips for Finding Primary Sources

1. When doing a keyword search in the UCF Catalog, include terms that describe primary sources such as: personal narratives, diaries, letters, correspondence, maps, pictorial works, memoirs. Even adding the term "sources" to your search can help limit your results to primary sources.

  • Example: American Revolution and personal narratives
  • Example: women and civil war and diaries
  • Example: frontier life and sources

2. Do an author search using the name of a person who was instrumental in the event/time period being researched.

  • Example: Franklin, Benjamin
  • Example: Mao, Zedong
  • Example: Roosevelt, Eleanor

3. On the advanced search screen, limit the date range for when the material was published to the dates an event took place.

  • Example: Spanish American War and limit dates to after 1897 and before 1900
  • Example: French Revolution and limit dates to after 1788 and before 1800