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Locating Primary Sources: Home

Understanding primary/secondary sources, tips for finding primary sources, and selected databases

Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources in less than 3 minutes

This video describes the major characteristics of primary and secondary sources, and how they can be used in research.

Primary sources are original materials on which research is based. 
Secondary sources provide commentary upon, interpretation of, or analysis of primary sources.

Finding Primary Sources

There are lots of places to start searching for primary sources in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Below are some places to start your search.

Library Search

Library Search finds items in the UConn Library Collection, including archival materials, print materials with original text, printed facsimiles, and online resources that link to digital facsimiles. 

For help finding primary sources using Library Search, see the Using the Library Search (Catalog) to Find Primary Sources tab.


Archives & Special Collections holds over 1000 collections of archival materials and primary sources. Primary sources from cultural institutions around the state of Connecticut can also be found in the Connecticut Digital Archive.

Research Guides

Library Subject Specialists create Research Guides that provide information and instruction on research within specific subjects.  Each guide varies, and may include primary source databases and other helpful resources in that field.  For additional help finding primary sources in a subject, contact the subject specialist profiled in the specific research guide.

Library Search finds items in the UConn Library Collection

To search for primary source materials, use the Advanced Search

Search Using Primary Document-Related Terms

Add words that identify types of primary sources. These are often part of the Subject Heading, a search option in Advanced Search.  These terms may include:

personal narratives correspondence interview letters
sources speeches diaries manuscripts
(Note that some terms work better than others depending on the topic)

In the Advanced Search, type your topic on the 1st line. On the 2nd line, change the Any field drop-down to Subject and use of the the subject headings that specify primary sources.

sample subject heading search for primary document types

Search Using Date

Narrow your search to the year of publication to find contemporary materials.

Search Using Author

Search a person's name as an author (changing the Any field drop-down to Author).  Search by author, not as a subject or keyword, as that will find materials about the person, not works by the person.

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Selected Primary Source Library Databases

Selected Websites for Primary Source Materials

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Check out our Explore Information guide in Research Now! for more help with

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