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Primary Sources: Home

This is a guide to primary sources in a number of disciplines and research areas.


This is a guide to electronic resources containing  primary sources in selected fields. See the History Subject Research Guide for other sources in history.  Many of the other libguides in the History category also contain information on primary sources for specific historical topics.

This guide is in progress and will be updated. It was released simewhat prematurely because of the Covid crisis and to make more open access materials immediately available to students and faculty working online.

Translations are often older ones which are no longer in copyright. There may be more recent translations in the library's print collection. Students should consult their professors about the reliability of any translation.

It is a guide primarily to open access materials but a small number of subscription databases have been included. You will be promoted to log in to use those resources.

Librarians and teaching faculty may want to consult Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy Developed by the ACRL and the Society of American Archivists.

What is a Primary Source

In historical research, and in related disciplines, a primary source is anything produced directly by the individual or group being studied. It is used as evidence by historians and those in fields using historical methods. A secondary's source is an account built on primary sources. 
In anthropology field notes and data are primary sources. For locating classical ethnographies see the Anthropology Libguide.. Statistical and other data are primary sources for sociology and for many other social sciences. Some sociologists consider any article containing data to be a primary source. Only sources of data are included here. In religious studies religious texts and hymns, as well standard historical records and interviews,would all be considered primary sources. 
Students may want to consult the faculty member teaching their course to determine what would be an appropriate primary source for their specific research assignment. 


General Open Access

Avalon Project Maintained by Yale Law School. Law, history, diplomacy, and related fields.

Digital Public Library of America Major source of primary sources in all areas. Includes some open access secondary sources. 

Online Library of Liberty Full texts of classic works in a range of disciplines. Philosophy, political science, and economics dominate.

Shapell Manuscript Foundation Emphasis on the United States and on Israel.

World Digital Library Large collection of primary sources. From BCE to present.

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