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Finding Primary Sources: Home
This guide will give you tips for finding primary sources.
What's Your Purpose?
The trick to finding primary sources is realizing that there is usually not a one-stop shop for primary sources. You really need to know what you are looking for because this can dictate where you search. Some questions to consider:
Are you looking for a specific type of primary source (diary, newspaper, piece of legislation, photographs, speeches, etc)
Are you looking for a sources from a specific time period? (Civil War, Women's Suffrage Movement, World War II, etc)
Are you looking for sources from a specific place? (Utah State University, American West, France)
Are you looking for sources about a specific group? (LDS Church, Cherokee Indians, Suffragists, World War II Veterans)
It's also important to realize that you might have to search in multiple locations for sources. A good starting place for finding primary sources relating to USU, Utah, LDS and American West history is USU's Primary Source Resource list.
Finding Primary Sources
USU Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is home to items that tell the story of the history of Utah, Mormonism and the Western region of the United States. SCA also includes the archives of Utah State University and the Fife Folklore Collection. To search their collection, use the drop-down menu to limit your results to "Special Collection and Archives" in the library catalog.
USE KEYWORDS: Many databases do not have a "primary source" filter but you can add keywords to your search. Try pairing the event, group, time period you are searching + with the type(s) of primary sources you are looking for. For example: Women suffragists AND diaries OR speeches OR oral histories OR photographs OR newspapers OR scrapbooks OR documents.
SEARCH LOCAL: This doesn't necessarily mean local to you but local to your topic - search archives, newspapers, museums, government agencies, etc local to your topic!
The Artstor Digital Library provides over 1.6 million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with an accessible collection of software tools for organizing and presenting research.
The Artstor database is provided to USU Libraries by a license agreement that restricts use of the images and text to authorized users and prohibits public distribution of the content. Therefore, you may not display Artstor content on a web site that everyone can access on the Internet. However, the content may be displayed on password-protected websites, such as websites in which access is given only to participants in a class. Instructors and class participants may display Artstor content during a class lecture or presentation. For answers to other questions about how the Artstor content may be used, please email Becky Thoms.
Digital collection offering a perspective on life in the western hemisphere, encompassing the arrival of the Europeans on the shores of North America in the late fifteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century.
This collection covers more than 400 years and more than 65,000 volumes in North, Central, and South America and the West Indies, highlighting the society, politics, religious beliefs, culture, contemporary opinions, and momentous events of the time through sermons, political tracts, newspapers, books, pamphlets, maps, legislation, literature, and more.
Primary-source material documenting women's experience in the United States. When complete the collection will include approximately 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries from women writing from Colonial times to 1950, plus 4,000 pages of previously unpublished materials.
When complete the collection will include approximately 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries from women writing from Colonial times to 1950, plus 4,000 pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from more than 1,000 sources, including journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings, much of the material is in copyright. All age groups and life stages, all ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous and the not so famous are all represented. More than 1,500 biographies will enhance the use of the database.
"The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever." - National Archives website