Answered By: Dave Wiseman
Last Updated: Jun 16, 2015     Views: 116

Primary sources, to use a broad definition, are documents about an event or events transmitted by someone who was actually there when the event transpired. There are several strategies for locating primary source material, and the exact approach any student takes will be influenced by the topic at hand.

Starting with the library catalog and doing a key word search, you can try adding words and phrases to your existing search that will be more likely to retrieve primary source material.
Phrases like:

“personal narratives”



Notice the quotation marks around “personal narratives”, that punctuation tells the catalog (or any library resource, really) to use those two words as a phrase rather than looking for them separately.

A search like:  Cuba “personal narratives”  will retrieve a variety of primary source materials.


Using the main library search box, you can first do your search, then limit the results to primary source material. To do this, look to the bottom left of the screen and find the Source Type limiter. It looks like this



If you don’t see Primary Sources listed as a source type, click on the Show More link and you will get a box that looks like this:



These two strategies represent the easiest way to find primary source material in general. There are other, more advanced strategies as well. If the methods above don’t work for you, please consider making a reference appointment with one of our librarians. We are here to help.



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