Primary sources are original materials that are created at the time the historical event (or events) has occurred or has been witnessed. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, oral histories, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research (definition adapted from the Reference and User Services Association's Using Primary Resources on the Web guide).
Books are still the main source when it comes to finding primary source material. Niagara University Library has a large collection of personal papers, letters, autobiographies, memoirs and narratives.
To locate books owned by Niagara University Library, use the Library Catalog.
If you want to search for primary source materials that are owned by other libraries, then try searching WorldCat, a catalog that contains references to more than 57 million items owned by 9,000 libraries worldwide. Don't worry - if you need a book owned by another library, you can request it. To learn how, jump to the section called Obtaining Materials NU Library Does Not Own.
The Library also has the following two indexes that are excellent resources for primary source materials.
- New York Times Index 1851-1997
- Readers Guide to Periodical Literature 1890-1997
Both of these are located in the oversized book section on the basement level of the Library.
To find primary sources, use the following databases:
The New York Times (Historical) via ProQuest
Offers full-text and full-image articles beginning with the newspaper's first issue in 1851. You can access news, editorials, letters to the editor, obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, historical photos, stock photos and advertisements.
Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1820
This database contains books, pamphlets, broadsides and other imprints listed in the renowned bibliography by Charles Evans.
Historical Statistics of the United States
The is the standard source for the quantitative facts of American history and covers topics like American Indians, crime, health, poverty and slavery.
Women and Social Movements in the United States
Includes archives and full-text documents written by primary authors.
The following web sites are just a few examples of what is available on the web for primary source material:
- American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html): American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience.
- Avalon Project (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/default.asp): Digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government.
- Euro Docs (http://eudocs.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Main_Page): Western European Primary Historical Documents.
- Finding Primary Sources from the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/finding.html): Primary source sets, primary sources by state, and more.
- Making of America (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moagrp/): A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. This collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints.
- Old New York State Historical Newspapers (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html): Search over 20,670,000 old New York State historical newspaper pages.
To find additional primary source websites simply log into Google and type “Primary Source Documents.” To be more specific, add another keyword to your search. For example, “Primary Source Documents” women.
If you need an article or a book that NU Library does not own, you can make use of Interlibrary Loan to obtain it.
Tip: In a hurry? If the article or book you need is owned by another library in Western New York, you can visit that library and use their resources on site (view a list of Western New York library web sites).
Please note: If you wish to borrow a book from another Western New York library, you can get an InfoPass card at the Reference Desk.
Check with your professor first, but the most commonly used style manuals in the History Department are:
- The Chicago Manual of Style.(Ref LB2369 .C45 2003)
- A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations / Kate L. Turabian. (Ref LB2369 .T8 2007)
Copies of these manuals are available in the Reference Collection. They are not available online.
You can try a Google search of "Chicago Style or Turabian Style" to see other guides. You will find many sites listed that provide examples of both of these styles. The first few that are listed tend to be reliable, but you will have to be careful.
Tip: Please talk to your professor if you have questions about how to cite your sources.