Native American History

About Primary Sources

Primary sources are materials that were created at the time period you are studying. In the case of memoirs, they are the materials recorded later by a participant or witness of an event.

Examples of primary sources are:

  • books - nonfiction & fiction
  • magazine and journal articles
  • photographs and images
  • speeches
  • letters
  • diaries
  • memoirs and autobiographies
  • government documents
  • advertisements
  • films and audiorecordings
  • materials generated by companies & organizations
  • objects and ephemera (e.g., postcards)
  • court decisions

As you do background research on your topic, consider what primary sources might exist. Bibliographies you find in books and articles often mention their primary source material.

Locating Published Primary Sources

Published collections of primary sources often contain a range of materials, such as diary entries, government documents, newspaper articles, speeches, and photographs.

To find collections of primary sources on a topic in the EMU Library's Esearch system:

1. Make sure you are at the Esearch "Advanced" search screen.

2. In the top box, type in a words or phrases that describe your topic.

3. In another row of search boxes, change the type of search in the dropdown box from "All Fields" to "Subject Terms."

 4. In the search box for the "Subject Terms," add one of the following search terms:

"sources"    "diaries"  "personal narratives"  "correspondence"

5.  OPTIONAL: To limit to books only, scroll down the screen to the "Show content type" options and change "Any" to "Books/eBooks." You can also limit to items in the library's catalog by scrolling to the "Show only" options and clicking box next to "Items in the library catalog (includes mostly print and physical material)."

6. Click on the "Search" button located in the bottom left-hand corner of the page.

Archival and Special Collections in Michigan

Authors will often refer to unpublished materials in a bibliography or in footnotes. The bibliographic information will include the the archives, library, or museum that houses the materials as well as the name of the collection. You can search for the internet for the name of the archives, library or museum to determine if they have the materials digitized and online.

Be aware that while many archives are making portions of their collections available online, few archives have all or the majority of their materials available online.

There are local archives and special collections that may be useful for some topics.

Online Collections

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