For help with teaching information literacy skills, please call the Hesburgh Library Reference Dept. at 574-631-6258, or Ask a Librarian.
A primary source is an original work. It represents original thinking, reports on discoveries or events, or shares new information. Usually it represents the first formal appearance of original research or creative work. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, rather than the format. They can be available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format.
There are many different types of primary sources depending on the subject matter being researched. Words in red are links to examples.
Primary sources can be a challenge to identify. No one tool will find everything. It may save you time and effort to talk with one of the Libraries' Subject Librarians or schedule a research consultation.
The following subheadings are often found in the subject headings of records for published primary sources:
Databases by subject Click on the appropriate subjects; read individual descriptions of databases to determine if primary sources might be included.
The Collections page describes the various types of collections both in terms of content and format.
The University Archives collects, preserves, and makes accessible the official records of the University of Notre Dame. This historically valuable material documents the academic and administrative responsibilities of the University as well as the experiences of its students, alumni, officers, faculty, staff, and benefactors. The Archives also collects and maintains records, papers, photographs, printed material, and audio-visual material that document the life of the Catholic Church and her people as lived in the American context.
The Snite Museum of Art features collections that place it among the finest university art museums in the nation. It contains over 24,000 works representing many of the principal cultures and periods of world art history.
WorldCat is a database of more than 1 billion records of books and other materials held in more than 10,000 academic, public, special and national libraries around the world. You can use the Advanced Search option to limit your search to “Archival Materials.”
Archive Finder brings together ArchivesUSA and the cumulative index to the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the UK and Ireland (NIDS UK/Ireland). ArchivesUSA is a current directory of over 5,500 repositories and more than 161,000 collections of primary source material across the United States.
Primary source collections online
An increasing number of primary sources from all over the world have been digitized and are freely available online. Examples:
American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library
Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy
EuroDocs: Western European Primary Historical Documents
Gallica: Digital Library of the National Library of France
Making of America: 19th c. books and magazines
The Libraries subscribe to hundreds of online databases. Those listed below are not inclusive of all databases with access to primary sources. The list of subject pages should be consulted for additional resopurces.
Early Published Works
American broadsides and ephemera. Series I Offers fully searchable facsimile images of approximately 15,000 broadsides printed between 1820 and 1900 and 15,000 pieces of ephemera printed between 1760 and 1900.
Early American imprints. Series I, Evans (1639-1800) Search or browse the content of books, pamphlets, broadsides and other imprints
Early American imprints. Series II, Shaw-Shoemaker (1801-1819) Search or browse the content of books, pamphlets, broadsides and other imprints
ECCO : Eighteenth Century collections online
A comprehensive searchable digital edition of The Eighteenth Century microfilm set, which has aimed to include every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800
EEBO : Early English books online
Contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700
Making of the modern world, 1450-1850 Provides full-text and full-page-image access to books from the 1460-1850 period, and pre-1906 serials, focusing on economics interpreted in the widest sense.
Eighteenth century journals Portal to newspapers and periodicals c1685-1815
Nineteenth century U.S. newspapers Searchable database containing digital facsimile images of newspapers; presented as full page layout as well as single articles
ProQuest historical newspapers Full text of major English-language newspapers
Seventeenth-eighteenth century Burney Collection newspapers Searchable full-text access to the British Library's collection of the newspapers, pamphlets, and books gathered by Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817)--
Times digital archive, 1785-1985 Searchable database of full-text and full-image articles from the Times of London for the years 1785-1985.
Vogue archive online
Contains the entire run of Vogue magazine (US edition), from the first issue in 1892 to the current month, reproduced in high-resolution color page images
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