Reproductions of Primary Sources in Publications
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Guide to Primary Sources  

Last Updated: Oct 31, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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If your class assignment requires the use of primary sources, make sure you understand what kinds of primary sources the professor expects you to use, and if published versions or reproductions are ok to use if you don’t have access to original primary sources on your topic.

 Once you know the kinds of primary sources you need, then consider the topic you are studying to determine where you should look for primary sources. For example, if your topic is on some aspect of United States history, the database Salem History (Click on Milestone Documents) will have  primary sources you can use. We also have primary sources under Opposing Viewpoints (Click the Primary Source link before conducting your search and Historic American Newspapers.  If you cannot locate primary resources at our library, you will need to find reproductions of primary sources in publications or on the web.  The Library of Congress website is a good place to start.  Here is a link to primary sources of various topics: Primary Source SetsGoogle is NOT a good search engine for locating primary sources!!!



    What is a primary source?

    Primary sources are original documents, images, artifacts, or data that provide direct evidence about people, places, events,or phenomena. Primary sources offer first-hand descriptions, eyewitness accounts, or direct evidence of a given subject. They provide valuable information that scholars interpret when they write secondary sources such books and articles. Specific examples of primary sources can vary among different disciplines. In the Humanities and Social Sciences, primary sources tend to be documents such as letters or reports. In the Sciences, primary sources tend to be data such as the results of an experiment.

    Primary Source Examples by Discipline






    Records of organizations (annual reports, meeting minutes)

    Political Science

    Government reports

    Census records

    Court records

    Birth certificates



    Video from studies of human behavior






    Data from psychological observations and experiments


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    Databases (journals, papers. videos, etc.) can be found our library website under "Online Library Resources."


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