Q. How do I find primary sources?

How do I find a primary source on my topic?


Primary sources are materials that provide first-hand documentation or knowledge, usually of people, places, events, or time periods. A few examples include diaries, oral histories, fossils, DNA samples, correspondence, speeches, interviews, court cases, or scientific studies. Here are 4 ways to find primary sources.

1. Use the OneSearch Advanced Search form and pair keywords with common words found in subject headings for primary sources. Subject heading examples include correspondence, diaries, interviews, personal narratives.  Sample search statement:

vietnam war AND (personal narratives OR diaries)

Check for additional primary source subject heading suggestions. You can limit results to online books by applying the Available Online and Books filter available on the left navigation bar. See the filters in action hereOr,

2. Use the primary source limit in Academic Search Premier. Type keywords for your topic in the search box, scroll down the search form to Publication Type, select Primary Source Document, then click Search. Or, 

3. Use a database on the A-Z Databases: Primary Sources page. These databases focus on providing access to primary sources. Or,

4. Explore the many free digital projects available on the Internet. SDSU Digital Collections include student newspapers, yearbooks, lots of SDSU photos; plus historical photos of SDSU and San Diego and more. The Digital Collection Gateways Worldwide lists our favorite project websites. 




  • Last Updated Nov 30, 2020
  • Views 27
  • Answered By Carolyn Baber

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