Primary sources are first-hand accounts or documents that have not undergone any sort of interpretation or evaluation. By providing original data about a topic or event. primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened during an event or time period. Primary sources are the evidence left behind by participants or observers.
Examples of primary sources:
Diaries, speeches, interviews, correspondence, personal narratives, letters, and other papers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers.
Government and court records. Reports, correspondence or other records of organizations or agencies serve as an ongoing record of the activity and thinking of that organization or agency. Many kinds of records (births, deaths, marriages; permits and licenses issued; census data; etc.) document conditions in a society.
Published materials (books, magazines, journal and newspaper articles) written at the time of an event. While these are sometimes accounts by participants, in most cases they are written by journalists or other observers.
Photographs, audio recordings and moving pictures or video recordings. These types of sources also document what happened.
Artifacts: physical objects, buildings, furniture, tools, appliances and household items, clothing, toys.
Creative works such as novels, poems, music, or songs that reflect the culture of the time period being studied can also be considered primary resources.
Memoirs and autobiographies. These are generally less reliable since they are usually written long after events occurred and may be distorted by bias, dimming memory or the revised perspective that may come with hindsight. On the other hand, they are sometimes the only source for certain information.
Common words or phrases to look for or use when searching for primary source in the catalog include:
sources, early works, personal narratives, diaries, letters, correspondence, interviews, maps, opinion polls
One of the best ways to identify primary sources is to search in secondary sources. If you find an article or book that discusses your research topic, check the bibliography and/or footnotes to identify primary sources that the author used!
Search by type: When you search for primary source material in the Kraemer Library Catalog, enter terms like the ones below using the SUBJECT field.
sources, personal narratives, correspondence, diaries, interviews, early works, maps, public opinion
Example: note that personal narratives or diaries is searched in the SUBJECT field.
As you browse subject headings in the catalogs, look for the above terms within the subject headings.
Sources are works that contain primary sources.
Search by author: Once you identify persons who played a role in the event or time period you are studying, do an author search for materials they have written.
The author search will lead you to the catalog record below.
Search by title: Search for a primary source by title. There are many in the KFL collection and in Prospector database.
The title search will lead you to the record below.
Search by date: Consider looking for books written on your topic or period at or near that point in time. Enter a subject heading and click on the search button.
Then SORT by Oldest first. Look at the example below.
After the sort is complete you will see each item record with the earliest publication date first. The two earliest records were published in 1684 and 1693. Since they were written during the time period when the the witch trials were taking place.