University Libraries / Tutorial Home / Finding Sources / Finding Primary Sources in the Humanities
  Log in

Finding Primary Sources in the Humanities

Introduction to Finding Primary Sources

You are currently in the module on "Finding Primary Sources in the Humanities" in a larger tutorial. Each research tutorial includes modules of topics related to the overall tutorial learning objectives. Please go through all the pages in this module by clicking on the “Next” button on the bottom of the page in order to progress. If you would like to track your progress, be sure to log in with your UNCG credentials at the top right of the module. Each module includes Quick Checks on every page. These Quick Checks do not produce a certificate; they are optional and do not track your progress. Certificates are created by completing a whole tutorial, so be sure to complete all the modules within a tutorial in order to generate a certificate. You can also take a screenshot of your progress page. 

UNCG Libraries Research Tutorials Help

Time needed to complete this module: 15 minutes

Learning Objectives: 

  • Know where to find primary sources through the library and online
  • Know tools to limit/narrow down results to find most appropriate sources

Decorative, person wearing glasses looking at books

Photo by Rabie Madaci on Unsplash

There are many ways to find primary sources, both in person and online. Primary sources are original creative works and uninterpreted evidence of experiences and events of the past. They are contemporaneous, meaning they exist at the same time, as the period of your research. By finding primary sources you will get as close to a historical event as possible. 

After researching and familiarizing yourself with an event, person, or time period using secondary sources, you are ready to start searching for primary sources. You can start by referencing the primary sources used in your secondary source research by looking at the authors' citations and footnotes. From there you may be able to find the archives, databases, and special collections they visited to conduct research. You will also be able to find the names or titles of individuals, organizations, and publications from that time period. Reviewing another researcher’s citations and footnotes is a good starting point for primary source research; just make sure to cite your sources when you build upon someone else’s work!

You can also find primary sources through UNCG University Libraries, where you have access to hundreds of databases, some of which are specifically dedicated to helping you find primary sources. All you will need is your student login credentials to access them if you are off-campus. The library also has subject specific research guides that can help you find specialized collections of primary sources related to a topic or discipline.

Archives and special collections are also great places to find primary sources. There are many different types of archives with various associations, some include historical societies, corporate archives, museums, religious archives, government archives, and school/university archives. Jackson Library houses the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) . You can search through SCUA’s collections online and create an appointment to visit the archives to examine the resources in person.

There are also open access digital libraries that provide access to primary sources for free online. You will learn more about those later in this module.

Quick Check: