Primary sources are original documents or artifacts that originate from the time or event being researched. They include first-hand observations, contemporary accounts of events, and viewpoints of the time. In the sciences primary sources also include reports and articles on the results of original research. This page focuses on primary sources for the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
The boxes below describe resources and strategies for finding historical primary sources.
Examples of primary sources
Other types of information may also be primary sources if they are analyzed for their historical or cultural significance.
Many of the Library's databases include primary sources. Look for each database's Advanced Search. In most databases you can locate primary sources by limiting your search by format type (e.g., photographs, images) or by date.
Below are several larger databases with many primary sources.
Government documents that serve as artifacts of an historical event or time are primary sources. Below are several key resources for government information.
See the Newspapers guide for access to historical and current newspapers from the U.S. the world, or for the state of Georgia. Newspapers are excellent primary sources that provide insight into a given time.
The Library catalog includes primary sources that are available in print, online, and in microfilm. If you are looking for a specific item, search by title or author.
Use the Advanced Search to limit by date or by format (e.g., images, audio visual, scores).
If you are looking for primary sources on a certain topic, do an Advanced Search. Here you can limit by format (e.g., images, audio visual, scores), publication year, author, or subject. (Subjects can be especially helpful for narrowing a search by topic or by document type (e.g., correspondence, autobiography, letters).
Below are some recommended catalog search terms for locating primary sources.
Try these words in a general keyword search, or to narrow your results limit the search to "subject."
If your topic relates to an event that occurred before 1923, there are likely relevant primary sources available in the public domain. Google Books has digitized and made available many such books.
Search for a specific work or for a general topic. Note, however, that Google Books also lists resources that are only available to preview. Look for resources with publication dates before 1923 and with a Read Preview link. The Advanced Book Search allows you to limit to Full view only books.