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Finding Primary Sources

Learn to distinguish between primary and secondary sources; learn strategies for finding primary sources.

Keywords to use

Click here to search the Hoffman Family Library catalog for materials within the library.

Add the word "Source" to a subject key word search to find primary sources.

Other subject key words that help indicate primary sources are:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Notebooks

You can also search terms such as:

  • Narratives
  • Oral History
  • Photographs
  • Recordings
  • Archive

eBook Collections

I found something!! How can I tell if it is a Primary Source?

Below are some characteristics that can help you differentiate primary sources from those that are not (ie. secondary):


  • How does he/she or they know what they know?
  • Does the knowledge stem from personal experiece? Were they a witness?
  • Does the author cite several published reports? (ie. is there a bibliogrpahy?)


  • Why is the information being provided? Why is the article being written?
  • Are there references to other writings on this topic/event?


  • Is there a date of publication?
  • Is the date of publication close to the date of event that is being described/indicated?