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History & Political Science: PRIMARY SOURCES

A guide for finding and using history & political science information

What are primary sources?

"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format."  

Source:  Yale University (2008).What are primary sources? Primary Sources at Yale. Retrieved from sources/primarysources.

Primary sources can be found in all of these types of documents:

Printed or Published Texts

  • Books & Pamphlets
  • Serials (newspapers, periodicals, magazines)
  • Government documents

Manuscript and/or archival material




Visual Materials


Sound recordings

Oral History


Where to find them?

Internet Sites with Primary Sources for History [compiled by Carol Singer at Bowling Green State University Libraries]

Your gateway to history primary sources on the web! This guide is comprehensive list of sources that are accessible from the internet and reviewed by a librarian. 

Political Science: Primary Sources [compiled by Kelly Janousek at California State University]

Your gateway to political science resources on the web! This guide is comprehensive list of sources that are accessible from the internet and reviewed by a librarian. 

Ask a librarian

If you have a source and you're not sure if it's primary, contact one of the librarians who will be glad to help you.